April 23, 2007

Lamb Chops & Minted Sweet Pea Puree

For the past week, I've talked up this project with friends, co-workers, students, and random customers at the winery. Everyone seems excited. People want to come over for dinner. I've been invited to cook at other people's homes; they even offered to buy the food for me to cook.

I'm like a pseudo-celebrity chef.


So, for my next recipe-I've-never-made, I chose to grill up some lamb chops. I love eating lamb, even if that makes me some kind of baby animal hater. Honestly, I don't really care that it's the meat of fluffy baby sheep. It tastes good, damn it.

Besides, I have this sadistic streak when it comes to lamb. Let me digress: Every Easter, my Grandma Green used to make a lamb cake. It was a white cake, baked in a lamb shaped pan, then set upright on a platter, covered in shredded coconut, and decorated with jellybeans. It looked a little like this Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
only without the creepy eyes and mouth.

So, I actually hated that lamb cake. I don't know why, exactly. But I always used to cut off the head and eat it, not because I liked white cake with coconut, but just out of spite. And Grandma, God bless her, made that cake every year...just for me. I must have eaten that head with such gusto. When she moved out of her house into a retirement community, she passed along that lamb cake pan to my mother, so that my mom could continue to make the cake for her favorite granddaughter. I have no idea where that pan is now.

Anyway...if there is lamb (meat, not cake) on the menu when I go out to eat, I will typically order it. In fact, my favorite lamb dish is the grilled lamb skewers with cucumber sauce at Modesto in St. Louis. Lamb is the only meat that I want to naw and suck off the bones. So, I was mildly disappointed that I could only find lamb loin chops without the long bone sticking out. Nevertheless, it was lamb and I was excited about cooking up a very springish dish.

To start, I made a paste out of pressed garlic, chopped rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I smeared this over the chops and let it sit at room temperature for about a half hour. Then, I seared them in a hot pan for about 4 minutes a side. While they rested, I pureed the peas (a bag of frozen sweet peas that I sauteed in olive oil and garlic until they thawed and warmed) in the food processor with a couple tablespoons of melted butter, a couple tablespoons of half & half, and a few sprigs of fresh mint. I returned the bright green stuff to the pan to warm, added some salt and pepper, then topped with shredded parmesan cheese.

The chops, I must say, were delicious. The garlic/rosemary paste made a tasty crust on the meat, which was cooked medium--very red, juicy, and tender. (When I make this again, I will use more of that paste.) It wasn't as...well...lamby tasting as I expected. In fact, for the price, I think I prefer lamb to beef (I paid about $14 for four good-sized chops). And the pea puree was a nice, slightly minty, compliment to the lamb--even if they did remind me a bit of baby food.

By the way, I plan to eat the leftover puree for breakfast tomorrow...heat it up, mix it with some crumbled bacon, and top it with a poached egg.


I finished reading Julie & Julie, the book that inspired my cooking project, yesterday and now I've started reading the blog she kept while cooking her way through MtaoFC. In particular, I really like how she talks about eating animals--how she discusses having to cook live lobsters, once even having to cut up a live lobster before cooking it, how she describes extracting marrow from beef bones (eating the center of the center, the essence of life), and how much she likes cooking and eating liver.

So, I decided that part of my project has to include cooking and eating something that I have actually killed myself. I've never done that before. I think I need to do that, at least once, in my life. But, I am not a hunter; I've never even shot a gun before. And, I am not ready to actually shoot something and eat it, so I have to start small...like buying live mussels or a lobster or something to cook.

This should be interesting........

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