from The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food, p. 276-82.

Judith Jones’s memoir appealed to me first for what she has to say about her life as a food editor. The short appendix of her favorite recipes at the end of the volume added that much more pleasure. Among those favorites she shares are one she devised after her husband died, when she began to cook for herself. In her description of her life at home by herself, I recognized my life:

I turn on some music and have a glass of Campari or wine, and it is for me the best part of the day, a time for relaxation. When, at last, I sit down and light the candles, the place across from me is not empty. (181)

The presence of her husband fills the space opposite her. At my table, with all my periodicals — the TLS, the NYRB, the LRB, and the NY’er — the world of books and ideas lays open on the table just beyond my plate. So, I’m partial to any book that offers ways for those of us who live alone to eat affordably and eat well.

A few days ago, I was down to my last big haunch of lamb from the Fields’ ranch. In a month or so, half of a butchered pig will have to fit into my freezer, so I decided to reduce the remaining bits of frozen lamb in one big jump. Judith showed me a way to make a leg of lamb without wasting any and without having to hold a dinner party (not that I’m averse to having friends to dinner, but I’m too busy this month). She provides nine recipes calibrated for one serving that can be made with one leg of lamb.

  • Cold Lamb with Sauce Gribiche
  • Evan’s Lamb Curry
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Casserole of Lamb, Mushrooms, and Bulgur or Barley
  • Eggplant or Green Peppers Stuffed with Lamb, Red Pepper, and Rice
  • Lamb Hash
  • Lamb Croquettes
  • Minced Lamb on Toast
  • Lamb Soup with Leeks and Flageolets

I managed to get the first, second, fourth, fifth and ninth out of my leg of lamb, which I offer here:

First, the roast…

One leg of lamb (bone-in)

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

I brought the lamb to room temperature for an hour on the kitchen counter — out of reach of my dogs. About 15 mins before I was ready to cook, I preheated the oven to 400. While the oven heated, I slit holes around the leg, into which I pushed garlic slivers. Then, I rubbed olive oil on the leg and sprinkled salt and pepper over it. The leg went on a roasting rack over a drip pan into the oven for an hour. Every 20 mins, I turned the leg. I wanted the meat to be rare, so I took the leg out at 1 hour and about 20 mins, maybe a touch less. I let it sit on the counter for nearly 20 mins while I made the sauce Gribiche.

Cold Lamb with Sauce Gribiche

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp wine vinegar

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp capers

2 cornichons, chopped in small pieces

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped in small pieces

Freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Mix all the ingredients together. If you’re not using the sauce right away, hold back on the parsley, and mix that in at the last. This is a sauce you have to taste so you can adjust the seasonings to get the balance right. Adjust according to what your palate tells you.

You can cut the meat in strips and marinate them in the sauce for several hours, or you can cut slices and serve the sauce over them. Use as much of it as suits your fancy.

Me, again…

I love this sauce. I have nothing to add.

And then, on the second day, I made this version of Judith’s “Evan’s Lamb Curry”…

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/2 green pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and chopped

1 cup lamb cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (either raw or cooked rare)

1/4 tsp fennel seeds

1 1/2 tsps good madras curry powder, or more to taste

1/2 tsp turmeric


1/2 tart green apples, peeled, cored, and cut in eighths

2 tsp unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onions, garlic, and green peppers, and sauté gently about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the lamb pieces, then add the broth, fennel seeds, curry, turmeric, and a sprinkling of salt. Cover the skillet, and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Add the apples, coconut, and lemon juice, and cook about 8 minutes, until the apples are tender. Taste, and correct seasoning; you may want more salt, and a bit more curry if you like it spicy.

My turn…

I followed her directions with two exceptions. I added half a green serrano chili, finely chopped, and I omitted the coconut.

On the third day, I made the Casserole of Lamb, Mushrooms, and Bulgur or Barley…

Judith: A simple dish that makes a complete meal with a little salad on the side. Bring 3/4 cup water to a boil, and slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup bulgur or barley. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté 5 medium mushrooms ina little olive oil with 3 or 4 slivers of garlic for a few minutes, then add chunks of cooked lamb, preferably on the rare side, along with any jus or gravy from the roast. If you haven’t any left, use about 1/4 cup beef stock. Season with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of fresh rosemary leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried and crumbled. Bring just to the simmer to heat through, and when the bulgur or barley is ready, toss the two together in a warm bowl and sprinkle some parsley on top.

Me: My only objection to the directions for this satisfying wintery dish is that the barley came out a bit soggy. Otherwise, I used some of my own meat stock.

I made the Eggplant Stuffed with Lamb, Red Pepper, and Rice on the fourth night…

1 small eggplant, 6-7 inches

1 medium onion, chopped

1 or 2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and chopped

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup cooked rice

2/3 cup cooked lamb, cut in smallish pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tsp roughly cut fresh rosemary leaves, or 1/2 tsp dried

3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts (optional)

1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Prick the eggplant all over, and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté the onion, garlic, and red pepper in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over low heat until soft. Add the rice, meat, salt and pepper to taste, rosemary, and optional pine nuts. When cool enough to handle, split the eggplant lengthwise, and scrape out most of the flesh, leaving the shell intact. Chop up the eggplant flesh and add it to the pan with the rest of the filling. Let everything cook together a few minutes, check seasoning, and then fill the eggplant halves with this stuffing. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top, and drizzle on remaining olive oil. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 25 minutes, until nicely browned on top.

Me, again…

As Judith goes on to say in a concluding note, there’s a lot of room for playing around with ingredients. I made do with what I had on hand, which meant leaving out the breadcrumbs. Next time, I might throw in some currants or raisins, chopped tomato. It reminds me of a dish I loved in Greece, Imam Balyadi.

My one word of warning is that I should have let the rice cook with the vegetables longer on top of the stove. The rice came out of the oven a little too firm for my taste.

Believe it or not, I was not sick of lamb by the fifth night, when I made the Lamb Soup with Leeks and Flageolets…

Judith: When you’ve finally gotten down to the bone of your leftover lamb roast, it’s time to make a soup. You’re not going to get a very meat broth from a cooked lamb bone,but it will have flavor, enough to yield one or two servings. Root vegetables are always good, and you can use rice or other grains instead of flageolets. But I like this particular combination. The night before making it, put a handful of flageolets or other beans to soak. Next day, cover your lamb bone with water, and bring to a boil. Skim, and simmer for about 30 minutes, then add a chopped onion, 1 or 2 leeks including some of the tender green, a chopped carrot, and the soaked and drained flageolets. Simmer about 1 hour, checking to see that there’s enough water to cover, until the beans are soft and the liquid is considerably reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and ladle into a soup bowl. Discard the bone, but be sure to scrape off and include any bits of lamb clinging to it.

My last gasp of lamb…

Covering the lamb bone with water means the broth will be more than is needed for the beans. So, if you like  more bean than broth, throw a couple of handfuls, not just one. And skim, skim, skim. The crud that rises up is pretty scummy.

Before I began this week long project, I feared I would be sick of lamb by the second meal. Instead, her recipes involve such different spices and preparations that I didn’t mind in the least. Tonight, I’m having the soup, which I made yesterday.

Nice little book.

4 thoughts on “Food Alone: Judith Jones’s Nine Lives of a Leg of Lamb

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