Bruce Aidells and Joe Nouhan’s Warm Lamb Salad

The Complete Meat Cookbook, pp. 525-26.

I came home from Europe flattened by a cold and ready for spring. While I was gone, my new vegetable garden took shape. I’m itching to get out there and plant, but for the past week my head and my lungs have battled to expel so much gunk that I could barely drag myself out to the deck to gaze over my rapidly developing urban farm. So, the time has not yet come to abandon wintery food.

I defrosted the lamb tongues my sheep-raising friends gave me before I left for Europe. In Aidells’ indispensable book, I found a recipe that recalled to my mind a lamb tongue salad I once had at the incomparable Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. After I had it for dinner, I thought it fell short of what it could have been. Hearty, but bland. What should I do next time? Make the dressing slightly creamy with mustard? More lemon? The Bistro Jeanty version incorporated the crunchy leaves of butter lettuce hearts.  This version could stand more crunch. I’ll have to think about it. Suggestions welcome.

The recipe comes in three parts:

1 lb lamb tongues or a 1-lb piece of lean, boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of all fat.

Shadowcook: I had 6 lambs tongues that together weighed a pound and a half. They did not amount a lot of meat.

1 medium onion, unpeeled, split in half

2 bay leaves

6 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 carrot, unpeeled, cut in half lengthwise

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons salt

Shadowcook: Or two heaping teaspoons kosher salt. But the entire recipe needed far more salt than called for.

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups water or chicken stock

To prepare the lamb: Wash the meat and place in a large kettle with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Simmer lamb tongues for 2 to 3 hours, shoulder for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is quite tender. Remove the meat, discard the vegetables, and let the meat cool, covered in the stock. Save the stock for soup.

When the tongues are cool enough to handle, make a long slit starting from the base. With your fingers, peel away the skin. Or tim the shoulder of any fat or gristle.

Cut the meat into 1/4-inch-thick sliced and reserve.

Shadowcook: Two hours were sufficient to make the six tongues very tender. I removed the tongues from the stock, let them cool for a few minutes, and then peeled them. The warmer they are, the easier they are to peel. After slicing them up, I put them in a bowl and poured some of the still hot stock over the meat to keep it warm.

Salad Dressing:

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl or pulse briefly in a food processor.

Salad assembly:

3 cups cubed, cooked red potatoes

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, packed

4 green onions, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gently toss the meat, potatoes, parsley, and green onions with the dressing, preferably while the lamb and potatoes are still slightly warm. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once.

Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso: Seafood Salad with Creamy Tarragon-Mustard Dressing

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The Silver Palate, p. 223-24.

I know only two homecooks of my generation who learned how to cook from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (MAFC) back in the 70s. Julia belonged to the women of my mother’s and aunt’s generations. I think I have known all my life practically how to recognize Child’s volumes on the shelf. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s, however, that I first started making recipes in MAFC, but I never went very deep until the last ten years. The Joy of Cooking was another cookbook that I remember always being in any household I lived in. Looking now at my shelves, I see my mother’s copy of volume one of MAFC right next to my old copy of the Silver Palate Cookbook.

The first cookbook that made an impression on me was not The Silver Palate, but Craig Claiborne’s collections of recipes. Claiborne deserves several posts of his own. Lukins and Rosso took my interest in cooking to higher level. They took practically everyone to another level. Who has not made their Chicken Marbella? That recipe is the culinary equivalent of the Beatles’ White Album. However well you thought you cooked or thought you liked the Beatles’ music, Chicken Marbella and the White Album impressed a standard of euphoria in our minds against which we unconsciously measured all that we made or heard afterwards.

So, when I heard last week that Lukins had passed away, I felt a slight of anxiety that I really must be getting old if one of the authors of the still joyful and therefore Peter-Pan-ish collections of recipes had passed away.  I decided to pull out my old copy and, it being hot, settled on a seafood salad.

Which, of course, I revised according to what I had in the fridge:

The salad

1 pound medium-size raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 pound fresh bay scallops, rinsed thoroughly

1/2 pound lobster meat (about 1 1/2 cups meat, the equivalent of a 3 1/4-to-4-pound lobster), or a similar amount of frozen lobster meat, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

1 cup uncooked tiny peas, fresh or frozen

2 scallions (green onions), trimmed, cleaned and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup Creamy Tarragon-Mustard Dressing (recipe follows)

2 cups coarsely shredded raw spinach leaves, thoroughly cleaned and dried

Shadowcook: I was not about to buy lobster meat, so I chose two kinds of seafood: a pound of shrimp and a pound of squid. Since the squid came cleaned, I simply sliced the sheathes into rings. Instead of spinach, I used lettuce as the bed for the seafood.

1. Bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil in a pot. Drop in the shrimp, wait 1 minute, and drop in the scallops. Just before the water returns to a full boil, pour the contents of the pot through a strainer set in the sink. Cool seafood to room temperature.

Shadowcook: Stick to the time called for. You can taste a world of difference between sufficiently cooked, tender shrimp and overcooked shrimp. Shrimp retains more of its flavor when just slightly undercooked and loses it when cooked too long.

2. Drain the lobster (if frozen) and sort through it carefully to remove any bits of shell. Reserve several large pieces of lobster meat (particularly claw meat) for garnish and cut the rest into chunks.

3. Reserve 3 or 4 shrimp and scallops for garnish and combine the rest with the lobster meat in a mixing bowl.

4. Add peas and scallions, season lightly with salt and pepper to taste, and pour in the tarragon-mustard dressing. Toss salad gently and add more dressing if you like.

Shadowcook: In my humble opinion, one cup of the dressing is a hell of a lot. The trick to dressing salad properly — which I admit sometimes I’m too impatient to follow every time — is toss the lettuce leaves well at each stage as you gradually add more and more dressing. Add a quarter cup of dressing to the salad and toss well to coat it thoroughly. Only then decide how much more to add. Don’t overdress the salad! Dress it gradually!

5. Arrange spinach in a border around a shallow serving bowl. Spoon the seafood salad into the center of the bowl and arrange the reserved seafood garnish on top.

6. Serve immediately, offering additional dressing on the side if you like.

6 portions as a first course, 4 portions as a main course.

Creamy Tarragon-Mustard Dressing

1 whole egg

2 egg yolks

1/3 cup prepared tarragon mustard, or Dijon-style mustard

1/4 cup tarragon vinegar

1 teaspoon crumbled dried tarragon

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup best-quality olive oil

1 cup corn or other light vegetable oil

Shadowcook: I used fresh tarragon leaves, which I am sure works better than dried ones. Grey Poupon mustard works well if you don’t have the tarragon mustard. And instead of corn oil, I used canola oil for the first time ever. I’m still making up my mind if I like it.

1. In a blender, or in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine whole egg, egg yolks, mustard, vinegar and tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper and process for 1 minute.

2. Measure out the oil and with the motor still running, dribble the oil into the processor or blender in a slow, steady stream. Shut off the motor, scrape down sides, taste, and correct seasoning.

3. Transfer to a storage container, cover, and refrigerate.

About 3 cups.

Shadowcook: Definitely chose a blender over the food processor. The  dressing swirling around in the blender jar  thickened so much that it seemed to stall. I had to stop the blender and stir the dressing around to make it move again.

Ruth Reichl’s Melon, Arugula, and Serrano Ham with Smoked Paprika Dressing

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from The Gourmet Cookbook, p. 153.

Nearly every time I post a recipe from a cookbook, I feel confident that my reproduction of the recipe, with my amendments, here constitutes fair use. Very few cookbooks contain as many good recipes as it would take to violate copyright law. I seldom have to restrain myself from posting too many good recipes from one book. The Zuni Café Cookbook comes to mind.

The Gourmet Cookbook constitutes my greatest challenge. I have yet to find a dud recipe in it. I cook out of it a lot. But there are a zillion recipes in it. I’m not even sure how many recipes would equal one percent of the contents! Therefore, I’m proceeding in good faith.

Anyway, here’s a great summer dinner:

For the dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (mild or hot)

Shadowcook: If you’re not familiar with this spice, look for a small metal red can with “Pimetón” displayed on the side and then read the fine print to make sure that it’s smoke paprika. Don’t worry about the heat. “Hot” is not so hot here.

1/4 teaspoon salt

Shadowcook: Diamond Crystal Kosher salt calls for about 1/2 teaspoon.

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

4 cups 1-inch pieces cantaloupe (2 1/2- to 3-pound melon)

4 cups 1-inch pieces honeydew (from 2 1/2- to 3-pound melon)

Shadowcook: Go for color here. If another melon besides honeydew is in your market, use it. But be mindful of the color contrast between the orange cantaloupe and a lighter color melon.

1 1/2 pounds arugula (4 large bunches), coarse stems discarded

1/2 pound sliced (1/16-inch thick) Serrano ham, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide strips

Shadowcook: In other words, the ham should be thicker than you would normally ask your butcher to slice prosciutto.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the dressing: Whisk together lime juice, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended.

Shadowcook: Then again, putting all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shaking the hell out of it works just as well.

Make the salad: Toss cantaloupe and honeydew with half of dressing in a medium bowl. Toss arugula and ham with remaining dressing in a large bowl. Add melon and salt and pepper to taste, tossing gently. Serve immediately.

Shadowcook: And enjoy an unusual combination of sweet-and-salty flavor. Personally, I went heavy on the kosher salt, but that’s just me.