Hosted a dinner party on Saturday night. The objective was to recreate some of the flavors of our Greece trip. While everyone was effusive with their compliments, I'd give the performance mixed reviews. Here was the menu: Babaganouj Tzatziki Greek Salad Grilled, Herb-Rubbed Leg of Lamb Grilled Fennel Grilled Yellow Potatoes Petite Strawberries with Yogurt and Honey
I made the baba a few days in advance with an eggplant from our planet organics box. Real simple, tahini, lemon, garlic, parsely. Tzatziki is also pretty simple. Peel and seed a cucumber, puree with lemon juice, clove of garlic and some dill. Mix with 1.5 cups of greek yogurt. Both served with an Acme sweet batard, nice and warm.
For the salad, you can refer to the previous post where I spell out rules. Two farmers market visits scored me some vine tomatoes, sweet red onion, green peppers and cucumbers. I assembled the salad in two layers since I was feeding nine. I piled fresh dill in between the layers and put some slabs of feta on top. A simple splash of olive oil and citrus vinegar was all that was necessary to coax the best from the veggies.
Everything was going smoothly. For the mains, I purchased five pounds of a pastured, grass-fed leg of lamb. I figured I'd try out Avedano's, an oft-mentioned butcher in Bernal (on Cortland). I rubbed the sucker in rosemary, thyme and shopped garlic and let it sit for four hours. I prepped the fennel by trimming and quartering the bulbs and tossing them in olive oil, salt and pepper. For the potatoes, which were small and lovely, I par-boiled them until al-dente, halved them and tossed them in olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.
Once the grill was hot I put the fennel on and got some lovely char going. From previous experiences I learned that fennel needs to be cooked through and takes a long time. Crunchy fennel doesn't work. Once browned I moved them to the edges of the grill, away from the direct heat. I then did the same for the lamb, getting some char on and then moving the legs away from the direct coals (which I only put on half of my Weber).
I cooked the lamb to 135 degrees, medium rare. Pulled it off, let it rest. Off come the fennel, tossed in the remaining oil, salted and served. Put the potatoes on the direct heat to crisp up for a few minutes while I sliced the lamb. I found the meat to have a confusing maze of fat and tissue. There was plenty of meat, but I think the next time I would trim up the sections better to eliminate the unnecessary stuff. Pulled the potatoes off, cut them into quarters and tossed them back in the rosemary oil.
The fennel was sublime. Really. Best dish of the night. I can't imagine a better preparation. The potatoes were good, but were made even better as my friend David and I dredged them into the oil. The trick is to make sure these guys are well coated. Everyone complimented the meat, but I wasn't sold. I found it to lack lambiness. I hope this isn't a symptom of the grass-fed. Perhaps it was the cut or the preparation - I'll own it if it's me. The only way to tell is to give it another shot. It's a long summer.
Julie flexed her culinary muscle by taking over the strawberry dessert. I didn't leave much yogurt so she dished out a dollop over some sweet, petite farmer's market strawberries and a little dash of honey. Really, a perfect ending to the meal. Simple, sweet and small.