Friday, March 26, 2010

Matza Ball Gratin

Passover, one of my favorite holidays, is coming up, and most people start the meal with matza ball soup. Usually we eat up all the soup, but sometimes-- like the other night, when we did a pre-passover soup test run-- we had some matza balls leftover. They were particularly flavorful and I wanted to make something with them that was different and unexpected. We had been eating a lot of parmentiers lately and this was surely inspired by them.

You'll need:
4 leftover matza balls
2 cups milk
2T butter
2T flour
1c grated cheese (we used comte, which is like gruyere, but a mix of cheeses is fine too)
1/4c parmesan
1 onion
1lb ground meat
5 cloves garlic
1T cumin
1/2t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make a bechamel by melting the butter in a saucepan, whisking in the flour, letting it turn golden brown and then adding the milk slowly. Let it bubble til it's thick, and then whisk in the grated cheese.

In the meantime (probably while the bechamel is thickening), chop and saute the onion and add the meat, crushed garlic, and spices. Add salt and pepper and saute until meat is brown, working it into small bits as it cooks.

Pour meat into a small baking dish. Slice matza balls into 1/4 inch thick slices and place in one layer over meat. Pour bechamel over and top with parmesan. Bake until brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Poitrine d'Agneau

I was attracted to this totally bizarre cut of lamb by a sign on the superbutcher's window advertising it for 1 euro/kilo. It turned out that that price was only if you bought 3 kilos or more, but it was still incredibly cheap. It's lamb ribs, but with the breast attached. I asked them how to cook it and they were vague-- on the barbecue, maybe, or in the oven. They cut it in half lengthwise, wrapped it up, and I was on my way. I spent quite a while researching recipes but didn't find anything too compelling-- a lot of people seem to ask their butchers to bone the meat, so that they can stuff it, but I hadn't done that, and now my meat was in two long pieces anyway. Most of the recipes called for a slow braise, after which you discard the liquid that's now full of accumulated lamb fat, and then a dry roast-- I decided to follow this basic process.

You'll need:
1kg poitrine d'agneau
1 onion, peeled and cut into eighths
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled but crushed
1 dried red chili
1t coriander seeds
1t cumin seeds
1t fennel seeds
3 bay leaves
1 preserved lemon
1T harissa or other chili paste

Cut as much fat off of the lamb as you can. Place onion, garlic, chili, coriander, cumin, fennel, and bay leaves in a large pot. Place ribs on top of vegetables and add salt and pepper. Add water to cover lamb and place in a low oven (145C/300F) for three hours.

Let lamb cool in liquid, then drain, discard liquid, and refrigerate lamb overnight. The next day, make a paste of chopped preserved lemon and harissa and spread over lamb. Place lamb in a baking dish and roast at 450 degrees until well browned, about 1 hour.

You can serve this as ribs, but I pulled off the meat and made a sandwich with some more harissa, some chopped preserved lemon and mint, and some of the tasty roasting grease to moisten things up. The resulting meat is delicious-- a perfect textural combination of soft braised insides and crispy incredibly flavorful outside.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

We've been making this quick and tasty dish for a few years, based on a Charles Phan recipe. This time, we made it with fresh noodles and it was better than ever. We cut down on the sugar a bit, but otherwise follow the recipe.

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