For the past couple of years, we have shared half a lamb with a friend through a local CSA. We never know exactly what cuts we’re going to get and, frankly, we don’t really care. It’s all delicious. And part of the fun for me is thinking up new ways to prepare it.
One of the cuts in this year’s share was a small roast on the bone — not more than 3 pounds in all. I made a gremolata and spread it across the top of the meat, put the roast in the pan in which I intended to cook it, then let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours so that the meat would absorb the lemon, garlic, and parsley goodness in which it was dressed. I preheated the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and, after letting the roast come to room temperature for about a half hour, I threw the whole pan right into the hot oven with a bit of mire poix and red wine. After about 15 minutes, I turned the oven down to 350 degrees, and continued cooking the roast until it registered just under 140 degrees on my instant-read thermometer— the high end of medium rare, especially after accounting for carry-over cooking.
You can see the results for yourself here . . . but you won’t be able to taste them unless you try it yourself at home.
One Saturday, we asked our dairy farmers if they had any veal for sale. “No, I’m afraid not,” was the reply, “It’ll be a month or so before we have veal again. But our son got a deer this week, and we have more venison than we can eat.” A few weeks later, we were presented with a small venison roast. The young hunter, who was there that weekend, proudly displayed a photo of his kill on his smart phone. His father worried that the photo might be off-putting, but I reassured him that it’s always a good thing to be reminded about where our food comes from.
The venison roast was absolutely delicious, better than any roast beef I can recall eating. A single, clean rifle shot and proper field dressing resulted in a sweet, tender piece of meat, and we relished every bite. As we always do, we acknowledged both the deer and the hunter as we enjoyed our meal, and we wished aloud that everyone had the opportunity to fully understand — and appreciate — the sacrifice and skill that goes into their food long before it ever reaches a fork.
Roast chicken is one of those classic dishes that seems as if it should be easy to prepare. After all, if our great grandmothers could roast chicken in temperamental wood-burning ovens on the prairies and in coal-burning ovens in crowded tenement housing, shouldn’t we be able to roast chicken effortlessly in modern kitchens? Still, I think I made 6 or 8 failed attempts before learning how to get it just right. I’m glad I didn’t stop trying . . . and I hope you don’t, either.
In mid-October, I bought a beautiful pumpkin at my farmers’ market and put it out on our tiny apartment terrace. Two days before Halloween, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. In the aftermath of the storm, there was no time to carve pumpkins, so mine remained on the terrace, largely forgotten, through much of the winter. In early February, an approaching warm front compelled me to bring the pumpkin inside, wash it off, and toss it in the oven. The following week found us and our friends eating “Old Terrace Pumpkin Soup,” “Old Terrace Pumpkin & Lentil Salad,” and “Old Terrace Pumpkin Bread.” We felt a bit like urban foragers.