Friday, March 26, 2010

Is it spring yet?


I am ready for spring. Really. I am sick of the emotional roller coaster of sun, storms, snow, more sun, spring flowers, snow days, etc. I just need some stability in my weather patters.


Weather patterns aside, not long ago, life used to be more spontaneous- less planning, less preparation, more spur of the moment everything. That changed drastically in recent years maybe because I like a little more predictability, maybe because I realized that I expect certain things and they can only occur if I plan them, maybe I am just getting old and cranky.


Actually planning what to cook, reading through recipes, getting myself in the right mindset for some crazy production that yields two portions is both fun and much needed. Some recipes have become month long projects just because, say, one of the ingredients needs to pickle for 4 weeks or so. Others require some ingredient that I need to order from a different state. All for a good cause though- it makes me happy.


But that’s not what this is about today. Today is about spring and planning a beautiful spring meal. Nothing says spring like a nice leg of lamb! And nothing says crazy cooking obsessions like making a lamb jus for that nice leg of lamb.


So here is a preview of a few things to come- today, lamb jus recipe. Monday, leg of lamb recipe. Later in the week, flageolets as a side dish (they are beautiful, delicate, and so full of flavor). All adapted from the Bouchon cookbook.


Lamb Jus


Ingredients: 2 tablespoons canola oil; 5 lbs lamb bones; 2 small yellow onions peeled (1 cut into quarters, one cut in half – you will reserve one half of this one for another use); 1 large carrot (3oz) peeled and cut into 4 pieces; 1 large leek (3 oz), roots trimmed, split lengthwise, rinsed well (no dirt!), cut into 2 inch pieces; 4 large Italian parsley springs; 4 thyme springs; 3-4 bay leaves; ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns; ½ head of garlic (take a whole one and split horizontally- don’t throw away the other half- reserve for another use).


Preheat your oven to 450 ยบ F.


Place a large roasting pan in the oven and preheat it for 10 min. I personally have a decent size roasting pan and needed 2 pans to fit the bones in a single layer and allow a nice roasting/browning.


Take the hot pan(s) out. Spread canola oil in the pan (s) and spread the soup bones in a single layer. About 25 minutes later, look in and turn the bones that are well browned. Turn the rest of them when they are well browned. Total roasting time: 40 minutes.


While the bones are roasting, char that half of the onion. Heat a small heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. No oil! Place the cut onion cut-side down in the pan to the side (not directly over high heat if you can help it- meaning, if you have a gas stove) and let it brown then char black for about 30 min.


You may need to adjust the heat down if you are not working with a gas stove. You want the onion to get really charred black, but that needs to happen slowly. The charred onion will add great color to the jus. Take it out of the pan and set it aside.


After 40 or so minutes of roasting the bones, take the pan out and add the quartered onions and carrot to the roasting pan. Roast together for another 20 minutes.


Remove the bones and the veggies into a colander to drain the fat and place them in a large stockpot. Cover them with cold water- probably about 3-4 quarts. Fat will rise to the top when you add cold water- remove it and any impurities with a skimmer.


Drain the fat out of the pan. Add about 1 cup hot water to your pan and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the pan juices. Add the resulting juices to the stockpot.


Add your charred onion and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Skim impurities. After about 15 minutes of simmering, add the rest of the ingredients (leek, garlic, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf).



Simmer for about 3 hours. Skim periodically. The water might reduce below the level of the bones- don’t add water.


Remove the bones (yes they go in the trash, unless you have a better idea for them). Strain, strain, strain. Chinois, fine mesh sieve, fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth- you choose, but do strain at least twice. And, as Keller suggests, ladling the liquid out instead of pouring keeps the stock sediments at the bottom and makes for a more clear, less cloudy final produce.


Refrigerate and allow it to cool completely. Remove the fat that will form at the top. Return to a pot and reduce by about half until you have only 4 cups. Strain once more an you are done! It should be colored brown, caramel-like and look deep infused with flavors, but clear of impurities.


The jus should last in your fridge for 3 days or can be frozen for longer periods. The leg of lamb recipe calls for one cup, so you will have 3 extra ones for other purposes or more leg of lamb!


Happy Spring!






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