What to Cook This Week: Italian Chicken in Red Wine

One of the skills I’m learning in culinary school is how to fabricate meats. What once was a very intimidating process, is now a proficient experience. I can honestly say I’m comfortable with butchering a whole chicken! Continue reading “What to Cook This Week: Italian Chicken in Red Wine”

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An Easter Feast of Roasted Leg of Lamb and Mint Chutney

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An Easter Feast featuring Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint Chutney, Roasted Root Vegetables, Rosemary Mashed Potatoes and Blanched Snap Peas.

At my house, it wouldn’t be a dinner party without the smoke alarm sounding at least once or my Shih Tzu, Ewok howling to the top of his lungs and doing the happy dance each time a new guest arrives at the door. That was the scene on a rainy Tuesday night recently when I invited my boyfriend and two close friends over for an early Easter feast. It was an occasion special enough for fine china and the antique, linen seashell napkins my mother gave me. On the menu?

  • Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint Chutney
  • Locally Roasted Root Vegetables: Turnips and Carrots
  • Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
  • Blanched Snap Peas
  • Open-Faced Apple Pie
  • Malbec Red Wine

I had visited the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market earlier that day for some help with side dishes, and came across these beauties from Poor Robin’s Produce grown in Screven County. Though they took more work to prepare, roasted with a good quality olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, the vegetables were tender to the taste and colorful on the platter. These vegetables keep giving and giving…with the leftover roasted vegetables from dinner, the next day I made the most hearty and comforting Roasted Turnip and Carrot Soup with homemade croutons. I’ve begun to think like a real chef, using up every ounce of the produce possible. I even garnished my soup with the green carrot tops. Turnip greens are up next.

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Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint Chutney surrounded by Locally Roasted Carrots and Turnips

For the Leg of Lamb:

  • One 4 -Pound Leg of Lamb
  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves, slivered
  • Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, such as Bella D ‘Olivia
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper

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Directions:
Leave the fat on the lamb. Don’t trim it. It adds flavor and keeps the meat moist throughout roasting. Pre-heat the over to 450 degrees. With a sharp knife, make small slits throughout the meat. Insert the slivered garlic cloves into the slits. Season the lamb with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle the meat with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then massage the seasonings and oil all over the meat. Place the meat in roasting pan, fitted with a rack. If you don’t have one, a 9 x 13 casserole dish will work just as well. Fill the roasting pan with an inch of water.  Roast the meat at 450 degrees for the first 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and check to see if the water has evaporated, if so, add more. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees. Cook the meat for 20 minutes per pound for medium well, or 15 minutes per pound for medium rare.

Reason #429 to visit your local farmers’ market: TO GET RECIPES!! When I purchased a large Zip-Lock bag of fresh mint, this little jewel was attached to it with a paper clip.

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The mint chutney (pictured at right in the jar) was bright and refreshing with the bold flavor of lamb.

For the Mint Chutney:

  • 2 1/2 Cups Chopped Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 1/3 Cup Minced Onion
  • 1/4 Cup Distilled White Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/3 Cup White Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Directions:
In a medium bowl, mix the mint, onion, sugar, vinegar, cayenne pepper and salt. Cover the mixture and refrigerate 2 hours, or until chilled.

wpid-0415142003.jpgI took  great pleasure in carving the meat at the table to the sound of my guests’ ooos and ahhhs.

These side dishes and our dessert rounded out the meal perfectly.

wpid-0415142012.jpgLeg of Lamb is definitely a cause for fine china.

wpid-0415142108a.jpgEmpty plates all around = full bellies and full hearts.

wpid-0417142228.jpgThe sign that hangs above two french doors in my kitchen sums up the evening perfectly.

Have you eaten lamb before? If so, how did you prepare it and what did you think?

Petite Sirah Pasta Boats

Seeing this photo of stuffed pasta while listening to the song Belle by Jack Johnson has me escaping to the streets of Italy, smelling fresh bread and imagining fine wine—then Pandora radio quickly changes tunes and I snap back to reality.

Ground beef, Parmigiano-Reggiano, red wine and pasta are staple ingredients I always have on hand. With only a few ingredients, this recipe packs a nice punch and comes together quickly. It’s also versatile. Feel free to change up the ingredients and substitute them with items from your pantry!

Brown the ground beef and onion, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then, deglaze the pan with a good quality red wine. I’m using Dancing Coyote’s Petite Sirah. It’s a full-bodied, dry wine that’s full of flavor…one of my favorites! Always cook with a wine you enjoy drinking.
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. I like to add salt and olive oil to the pasta water for added flavor. Then set up a little stuffing station.

Stuff the pasta with the ground beef mixture, then top with sharp cheddar cheese. Sharp cheddar gives it a nice bite.

Cover the stuffed pasta with a jarred tomato sauce, then grate fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano right over the top of the dish. Drizzle with olive oil and splash with another drink of red wine. This will help the pasta to stay moist during the cooking process. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes.

Enjoy fresh from the oven with a garden salad and some fresh bread and you’ve got a complete meal. Be sure to pour yourself a glass of that red wine, if there’s any left. 😉

Tell me about your best pasta dish!

Shiraz by Layer Cake

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Who wouldn’t love a bottle of wine named Layer Cake? Naturally, I was drawn to the delectable chocolate cake pictured on the front of the bottle, but then I read the description on the back and immediately knew I had made my choice. Here’s what it says:

My old grandfather made and enjoyed wine for 80 years. He told me the soil in which the vines lived were a layer cake. He said the wine, if properly made, was like a great layer cake, fruit, mocha and chocolate, hints of spice and rich, always rich. ‘Never pass up a layer cake,’ he would say. I have always loved those words.

Try Shiraz, Vintage 2009 from South Australia by Layer Cake. You’ll be glad you did.