Monday, February 21, 2011

2nd Annual Lamb Jam

When I heard that last year's wonderful Lamb Jam event was going to be repeated, I started spreading the news. My parents haven't stopped talking about how much they enjoyed the event last year. Sponsored by the American Lamb Board and, the event pits some of the top restaurants in Boston against each other in a battle for lamb domination.

When I reached out to my press contact about getting a ticket, I was surprised and happy when she offered me a judging spot instead. I arrived early and joined my fellow judges for what ended up to be a rigorous tasting schedule. Each dish was presented to us without a hint of who created it, and we judged on presentation, creativity, and taste. There seemed to be a general consensus on things down at my end of the table, but I was surprised at some of the eventual winners. Restaurants had picked their cut of meat - leg, loin, shank, or shoulder - and we picked a winner for each category, as well as a "best in show."

People's Choice: Oleana
Leg: Citizen Public House
Loin: Gargoyles on the Square
Shank: The Fireplace
Shoulder: Garden at the Cellar
Best in Show: Gargoyles on the Square

All of the entries (in the order of our tasting):

  • 606 Congress - Pulled Lamb Shank Agnolotti with Balsamic Brown Butter and Chocolate Gremolata (picture)
  • Bondir - Chilled Braised Shank set in Clarified Broth with Parsley and Carrots, Pistachio Vinaigrette and Salad (picture)
  • The Fireplace - Braised Lamb Shank with Sheep Milk Cream over Winter Squash Stew and Cheesy Cornmeal Porridge (picture)
  • Henrietta's Table - BBQ Beer Braised Lamb Shank with Charlie Baer's Money Beans and Stone Ground Grits (picture)
  • Tomasso Trattoria - Braised Lamb Shank Ravioli with Marscapone Cheese (picture)
  • Garden at the Cellar - Lamb Sausage Ssam with Nuoc Cham, Kimchi Slaw, and Crispy Garlic (picture)
  • Red Lion Inn - Porcini Braised Lamb Shoulder with Berkshire Blue Hominy and Equinox Farm Kale (picture)
  • Rialto - Lamb Scotch Eggs with Winter Salad, Lamb Bacon Lardons, and Truffle Vinaigrette (picture)
  • Oleana - Lamb Cammama - Spiced Lamb Shoulder with Onions, Moroccan Dates, Almond Bread, Carrot Salad, Blood Orange, and Cilantro (picture)
  • Bistro du Midi - Cumin and Garlic Sous Vide Lamb Loin with Braised Lamb Neck Ravioli, Baby Carrot, Pine Nuts, and Lamb Jus (picture)
  • Gourmet Caterers - Sumac Dusted Lamb Loin with Crispy Chickpea Cake and Preserved Orange Tomato Chutney (picture)
  • Sel de la Terre - Shepherds Pie Napoleon - Maple Smoked Lamb Loin, Pea and Carrot Pastry, Pommes Dauphin, with Carrot Gelee and Pea Foam (picture)
  • Gargoyles on the Square - Poached Lamb Loin with Black Truffle, Cauliflower Espuma, Bee Pollen, and Fried Garlic (picture above)
  • Aura - Roasted Leg of Lamb with Merguez Sausage Cassoulet, Bruleed Eggplant, and Yogurt (picture)
  • Citizen Public House - Jerky 3 Ways: Whiskey Smoked, Honey Ginger, Rosemary Sea Salt (picture)
  • Pain D'Avignon - Lamb Leg Frankfurter cooked in Rapscallion Honey Beer with Lamb Bacon Sauerkraut and Rapscallion Honey Mustard on Lamb Fat Griddled Brioche Bun (picture)
  • Russell House Tavern - House-made Merguez Sausage Slider with Warm Smoked Lamb Belly Vinaigrette, Minted Pickles, and Harissa Ginger Aioli (picture)

Full Disclosure note: My ticket to the event was given to me for free by the American Lamb Board.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cherry Lime Pie

One of the funny things about family traditions is that it can be hard to tell that they're specific to your family only. Growing up, we had cherry pie every February for Presidents' Day. I mentioned this recently to one of my brothers, and he said "I thought Mom just liked cherry pie." I mentioned to some other people that I wanted to bake a cherry pie soon for the holiday, and almost no one saw the connection. Was this just specific to my family then?

Since cherries, along with almost every other kind of fruit, are out of season in the winter, I like using frozen dark cherries. They don't have quite the same flavor as sour cherries (the usual kind used for pie), but the addition of lime gives the cherries more depth. Cherries and lime just taste so bright and fresh, the perfect thing for a winter day.

I haven't included a recipe for the dough because everyone seems to have their favorite pie crust. I like all-butter dough. I was a little pressed for time this time, though, so I used store-bought dough. The outcome wasn't quite as good, but I was still happy with the overall pie.

Cherry Lime Pie
pie dough (use your favorite, enough for a double crust)
6 cups frozen dark cherries, defrosted
4 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/4 cup sugar
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a deep pie dish with dough (1/8th inch thick) and crimp the edges. In a large bowl, combine cherries, cornstarch, sugar, and lime zest and juice. Pour cherry mixture into pie dish and dot with butter. Roll out second half of dough to 1/8th-inch thick and, using a small star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many stars as possible. Arrange dough shapes over the top of the pie, overlapping so they can bake together. Brush top with milk and dust with sanding sugar.

Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375° and bake for another hour, until the filling is set and bubbly. Use a pie crust shield or foil around the edges if the edges brown quickly. Let cool completely before serving.