The first weekend of 2009 was a long, lovely one. Let’s start at the beginning with our first dinner of the year – Mike’s (now traditional) choucroute garni. This year’s version was downsized but still delicious, featuring Pat’s positively wonderful smoked pork chops and franks, a couple of bratwurst, and of course, a healthy amount of saurkraut. I had hoped to ferment my own this time, but I’m still lacking the proper equipment. I see a return visit to Brooklyn in our near future.
We had lunch up the street at Apsara on Friday before running a few errands. We finally tried (and loved) the nime chow appetizer, and I fortified myself against the cold with a steaming bowl of Cambodian noodle soup. I ordered it with duck, but it didn’t need it – I would have been satisfied just with the delicate, flavorful broth, noodles and sprouts. Next time I’ll order it plain.
Among our errands was a trip to Whole Foods to re-stock some pantry items, and while we were there, we decided to pick up a smallish roast of American lamb for dinner that night. We don’t eat lamb as much as we did in New York (we really miss Karen’s 3-Corner Field lamb), so this was a chance to treat ourselves a bit. The boneless leg roast came in at just under 2 lbs., and I seasoned it with a paste of garlic, coarse salt, cracked pepper, fresh savory, lemon thyme, rosemary, parsley and lemon zest bound with a bit of olive oil.
I let it sit for a couple of hours, then brushed off the mixture (reserving it to add to a red wine pan sauce later) and cooked the roast in our iron skillet. I let it go about 15 minutes on the fat side at 400 degrees, then lowered the heat to 325, flipped it, and cooked it about 20 minutes more. I brushed a mixture of leftover tapenade and mustard on the top of the roast for the last 10 minutes of cooking, and let it rest before carving off slices.
We got a bit of a late start on Saturday, which led to a rather disappointing trip to the Wintertime Farmers’ Market. By the time we arrived around 12:30, pickings were VERY slim – there were no potatoes, no greens, no chickens, no eggs, almost none of the things I had on my list for the meals I had planned for the week. I had to think fast and revise my meal plan, thinking of what we had at home in the freezer and pantry, and what was available at the market, and though we’ll still eat well this week, it was a sobering reminder that there are some dark days ahead for us as we continue through winter. But happily, Perry still had clams for the Saturday dinner I had planned. I built a rich broth with leeks and fennel and tomatoes and wine to steam the clams in, and served them over a bit of Israeli couscous, with hunks of crusty bread to soak up the juices.
I’m happy, of course, that the farmers and purveyors at the market had a good week, but I’m also grateful that I had taken the time in the last weeks of the Hope High market to blanch and freeze some vegetables in preparation for the months ahead. (I still don’t know how I’m going to live without Wishing Stone’s beautiful eggs until June – this coming Saturday is their last week until then.)
I was already missing those eggs as I made a batch of fresh pasta sheets, which would become part of a rich lasagna. I cooked up a huge batch of the beef and pork variation of Marcella‘s ragu Bolognese (leaving plenty to portion out and freeze for future meals), blanched, rinsed and dried the noodles, then built my layers, adding bechamel and plenty of slices of Narragansett Creamery mozzarella.
After 20 minutes in the oven, and another ten to rest, dinner was ready. And despite my aching back and hands today, it was so worth the effort.