Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chana Dal with Lamb

This is the first real dal recipe I've done from the Jaffrey cookbook. It's kind of an unusual one, because it contains lamb, and also you don't let the lentils fall apart-- they stay whole and a bit al dente.

I know I say this a lot, but... this was easy but time-consuming! My Indian foodie friend Nagesh thinks that some of Jaffrey's recipes are needlessly complicated, which is interesting. It's certainly true that it's hard to make a Jaffrey recipe without dirtying half the dishes and pans in your kitchen.

First, you fry four onions' worth of onion half-rings, till they're brown and sweet. Don't burn them. Also, don't hover over the pot so much that your eyes start stinging and you have to call your husband over to help you scoop out the onions because you can't see. Not that such a thing would ever happen to me. Set aside.

Next, put your lamb chunks (we got some nice local lamb stew meat from the Fair Food Farmstand) into the hot onion oil and brown them on high heat. Set aside.

Meanwhile, you will have blended your Indian mirepoix (onions, ginger, garlic) into a fine paste in the mini-food processor. Dump this into the oil and fry for close to ten minutes, until it starts to cook off a bit. Then add your turmeric, coriander and cumin. Give it a minute, then stir in a tablespoon of tomato puree (I used paste). Next, the warm spices: mace, nutmeg, cinnamon and ground cloves. I hadn't used mace before-- it has a strong flavor and goes well in the warm-spice mix. Give that about five minutes, then add 4 oz chana dal, the lamb, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and a cup of water. Stir well, bring to a boil, and simmer for an hour, pausing your movie every ten minutes to stir.

Before service, stir in a few tablespoons of lemon juice. I served this with rice and topped it with the fried onions and chopped coriander, which made for a nice presentation.

This was delicious! It had a nice kick-- definitely the spiciest recipe I've made yet, which isn't saying much, but still. Tasty. The lamb was very tender, and the dal had this al dente not-quite-crunch to them that was very pleasant. The sweetness of the onions was a nice counterpoint to the heat and the richness of the lamb.

I'm packing some of this for my trip this weekend, and I have a feeling it's going to get very happy in the fridge!

-Next time, I think I can drain off some of the oil before putting in the mirepoix. It was a little oily.
-Good lamb really makes a difference. We were surprised at how meat-heavy this dish was- we actually used only half the amount of meat called for in the recipe, because that's what we had on hand, and it was still very meat-centric.
-Be careful when frying onions! I need some goggles or something. Except that if I actually wore goggles around onions, Joe would never, ever let me live it down!

Joe's Chuck Roast

So we bought this great big chuck roast from Livengood Produce's farmstand in the Reading Terminal Market. Livengood is one of the sustainably farmed, nature-based "grass farms" Michael Pollan discusses in his wonderful book The Omnivore's Dilemma. Their cows are raised eating actual grass and clover in a real pasture. They are treated humanely and killed humanely (to the extent that such a thing is possible), and the family who runs the farmstand sells only what is in season on their farm right now. They usually have a small cooler with whatever meat they have right now, and it is uniformly excellent. You know how sometimes, with commercial meats, the fat on the side tastes kind of gristly and awful? The fat on this meat tastes like... beef. And grass. And the meat is incredibly flavorful-- after you have a few of these, it's hard to go back to the nasty factory stuff. If you're in Philly, you need to check them out. The cute guy at the farmstand says they're having a customer appreciation day the last weekend in July-- who knows, if all works out, maybe we'll get CarShare for the day and head out there to check it out!

And now, the food. I had a really long day on Monday, so my wonderful husband did the cooking. He actually used to do almost all of the cooking before I started getting serious about learning, and he said he particularly enjoyed doing this roast.

Since we've stocked our spice cabinet with all manner of delicious seeds and powders, Joe decided to do a rub with some Indian spices, get the outside nice and seared, and keep it rare inside. It was delicious; we served it with fried potatoes, but I think it'll make excellent sandwiches. Here's his recipe:

Chuck Roast

2 Cloves of Garlic
Black Caraway Seeds (1Tbsp)
Cumin Seeds (3Tbsp)
Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
Fennel Seeds (2 Tbsp)

I didn't measure the seeds. I just put what I though would be enough to cover the roast. I put approximates in parentheses.

Put in cuisinart for five minutes or until well ground.

Generously salt the roast. Wait 5 minutes. Pour rub out on foil or in a bowl and cover roast with an even layer of the rub. Cover as much surface area as possible.

(Credit to Alton) Put roast in a 250 degree oven until the internal temp reaches 125-128 degrees. Remove from oven and cover with foil. Crank up the oven to 500 degrees. After the oven comes to temperature, put the roast back in and bring the internal temperature to 135-140 degrees. Remove from oven. Let rest for at least 20 minutes. Roast should have a nice crust and be medium rare inside. The time period will vary depending on the size of the roast. Ours took a total of and hour and twenty minutes.