Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One that failed (sort of)

I'm batching it! Yeah, the wife and monsters are out of town. Don't get me wrong, I miss them terribly, but it does give me a chance to take some risks with dinner that I otherwise may not have had.
I was shopping for groceries last night, and I was looking for a good meat that I rarely have. I found a pack of ground lamb, and I thought it would be a great idea. It was, but I managed to screw it up. But, that's one of the purposes of this "forum."
Here's the menu:

"Reduced" balsamic and herbes de Provence vinaigrette
Really, it's how you describe things that make them sound better than they are. It's not a reduced vinaigrette, I just didn't feel like adding mustard. I later found out by watching a Bobby Flay grilling show that the mustard is actually essential to help the oil and vinegar emulsify. I also cut a corner and failed to add shallot. I didn't have any, but I guess I could have added red onion which I had left over.

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp herbes de Provence (just get a bottle of them at the spice rack at the grocery store)
1/2 tsp salt (Kosher to taste)
High quality extra virgin olive oil.

This is a post about salad dressing as much as it is about anything. It's really easy, and it tastes really fresh. The ingredients are pretty simple, and you'll think twice about buying it again if you make it right. Here's the breakdown:
something acid
dijon mustard
salt and pepper, don't skimp
some other seasoning if you want
high quality olive oil (just check at your grocery store, and look online if you don't find what you want. Order it and wait a couple of days. It's worth it.)

figure about 3:1 oil to acid. Here's your chance to put what you want. It can be red wine, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar, fresh tomato pulp either green or red, etc.
When it comes to other seasoning, you can add whatever you want. Think about it. This can be bacon and bacon fat (ummm bacon), garlic, herbs of whatever you want, red pepper flakes, sherry reduction, parmesan cheese, it's up to you.
Dijon mustard, I think you should add, just don't add too much or it overpowers the dressing. It does help emulsify the dressing, so it's important. Remember chemistry?
Salt and pepper addition depend on what else you've added. If you've put bacon, then you don't need much. If you're making a cucumber and tomato salad, then I would recommend more, since I like them salty.
Now, add everything, then drizzle your oil into a medium sized bowl and whisk like crazy to create your emulsion. You'll know you're there when the whole thing starts to thicken. Taste it, season, and you're done. Isn't that easy?
So mine, I cheated and used balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, and emulsified with oil. It worked great but would have been better with some crusty bread (baguette). I put it over a small cucumber and a couple of sliced Roma tomatoes.

Provencal lamb burgers and sauteed fingerling potatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of fresh thyme (do you have an herb garden yet?)
1 tsp of fresh rosemary, minced
salt, pepper

Combine all the ingredients and make a paste. The saltier the better. Combine with about 3/4 pound of ground lamb. Let them heat up to close to room temperature.
Sear over medium high. Not too hot, or else you'll have raw burgers. Not too low, or they'll be well done. Uggh.

4 fingerling potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
thyme, rosemary don't make them too green
salt, pepper
olive oil
Toss the potatoes, and cook over medium high heat about 10-12 minutes. If you must, drain on paper towels to cut some of the fat off of them. I think they're better if they're in a separate pan from the lamb burgers.

Why my dish sucked
I had the heat too high, and even though the crust on the burgers was great, they were a little underdone. You're choices then are to wrap in foil and let them rest for about 10-15 minutes, or put them back on the fire. I did the latter, and screwed them up because I let them overcook. There's a reason lamb must be rare to medium, because it otherwise tastes too gamey. So, the flavors were there, the cooking technique was wrong.
The potatoes, on the other hand, were just fine.

Do over
I would have cooked the lamb better, grilled them maybe, and then made true burgers out of them using grilled bread and Manchego cheese. Maybe even make an herb aioli (garlic mayonnaise) with some mint to bring another herb into it. Live and learn.
Sorry no pictures.

Wine pairing
Tiza Malbec, 2005

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