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Texas Style Chile-Honey Lamb with Fixin’s

Cascarones and rack of lamb make for very Texas Easter.

Cascarones (confetti eggs) and rack of lamb make for a very Texas Easter.

While most of America happily dyes and hides eggs in quaint backyards for children in adorable pastel church clothes, Texas does Easter a bit different.  Sure, we dye and hide eggs, but then the celebration gets a little more chaotic.  Someone decided a long time ago that hiding and finding eggs was just too passé.  Why don’t we fill emptied eggs with tons of confetti, then smash them on people’s heads?  What better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus can there be?

Oh ya. Come to mama.

Oh ya. Come to mama.

Much like cascarones (confetti eggs), a rub is Texas’ answer to the boring dish of lamb with mint jelly.  There’s no way Texans are passing mint jelly around the Easter table.  We love heat and lamb is an excellent foil for an earthy, spicy rub.  But man cannot live on lamb alone, so I included a delicately sweet parsnip purée and some peas quickly sautéed in brown butter.

Texas Style Chile-Honey Lamb with Parsnip Purée and Brown Butter Peas

Servings: 6-8    Prep Time: 1 hour    Cook Time: Combined 1 hour 15 minutes    Total Time:  2 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients:

Chile-Honey Lamb

2      racks of lamb, dried then generously salted and peppered  (trimmed to 1/8 inch fat, silverskin removed)*
2      Tbsp ground ancho chile powder
1      tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup mesquite honey (clover honey is fine)
2      Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1      Tbsp canola oil

Parsnip Purée

1      lb parsnips, peeled, halved and cut into 2 inch pieces
3/4 cup half and half
2    Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt

Brown Butter Peas

1     shallot, minced
1     tsp fresh minced thyme (do not substitute with dried thyme)
2     Tbsp unsalted butter
3     cups frozen peas (do not thaw)

Instructions (in order of when you should start):

Parsnip Purée

  1. Place the cut parsnips in a Dutch oven or rondeau.  Fill to cold water to one inch above the parsnips.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Boil until the parsnips yield easily to a fork.  About 15-25 minutes.
  3. Drain in a colander and immediately add to a blender or food processor along with the butter and 1/2 cup of the half and half.
  4. Blend until smooth.  The consistency should be a little thinner than whipped cream cheese.  If the mixture is too thick, at more of the half and half.

Chile-Honey Lamb

  1. Place a roasting pan or jellyroll pan in the oven.  Move the oven rack to the lower-middle level.  Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together and toast in a dry 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat.  About 30 seconds.  Put in bowl to the side.
  3. In the now empty skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.   Place the lamb racks, fat side down until well browned.  5-7 minutes.  Flip and brown the other side, about 3-5 minutes.  Now place the racks with bones intertwined, so you can brown the very bottom of the meat, about 3 minutes.
  4. Pull skillet off the heat and brush all over the meat with half of the marinade.  Working quickly, place each rack fat side down in the roasting pan and return to the oven.
  5. After 6 minutes, pull the racks out and rebaste with the rest of the marinade.  Return to oven for another 6 minutes.
  6. At a total time of 12 minutes, test with a meat thermometer to see that the lamb has reached 135°.  If not, then continue roasting another 3 minutes.
  7. When the roasting is completed, immediately pull the racks out of the oven and tent with foil.  Let rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Once the lamb has rested, slice just after every bone.  You should have 6-8 individual ribs per rack.

Brown Butter Peas

  1. Melt the butter in a 12 inch skillet (non-stick or regular) over medium-high heat.  Watch and swirl almost constantly and as soon as the milk solids turn a golden brown and you smell a nutty aroma, add the shallots and minced thyme.
  2. Continue to cook on medium-high heat until the shallots have softened and the edges turn translucent.
  3. Add the frozen peas.  Cover with a lid and cook, stirring once or twice until the peas are warm, about 5 minutes.

*I like to leave the silverskin on because it helps keep the lamb from tearing or falling apart.  Totally a personal preference.

Happy cooking!

Modern Waldorf Salad

Close Up Apple Celery Hazelnut Salad

Back away from the mayo and the raisins…

There are some major problems with salad these days.  Most salads suffer from so many ingredients that any one component cannot be identified.  The general practice just seems to be “cover up all the lettuce”.  This approach misses all the potential that a good green salad has!  The key to a great salad isn’t more stuff, it’s just balance.  A perfect balance of sweet, tart, and earthy creates a perfect first course or side.

Seriously, this is super easy and looks fancy AF.

Seriously, this is super easy and looks fancy AF.

Modern Waldorf Salad

Serves 4 – 6    Prep Time: 30 minutes    Cook Time: 0    Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Dressing:

3      Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3      Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1      Tbsp honey
1/4  tsp sea salt (to taste)
1/8  tsp freshly ground pepper

Salad:

1       apple (Fuji or Braeburn) peeled, and sliced at 1/8 inches on a mandolin
2       celery ribs, cut very thin on the bias (you can cut it normally, but bias is prettier)
1       bag of Romaine lettuce, pre-washed and pre-cut
1/4  cup parsley, coarsely chopped
6       oz good quality Stilton
1/2  cup raw hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and roughly chopped.  Toast over medium heat (Takes about 4 – 6 minutes. Toss often to prevent scorching.  Pull off when they smell really nutty and the skins split.  Rub in a towel to remove the skins.  If some skin is left on, it’s not a big deal)

Instructions:

  1. Whisk honey, extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar together.  In a large bowl, toss the apples and celery together with the dressing.  Let stand 5 – 10 minutes.  The longer it sits, the more dressing the apple and celery will absorb making it more potent and soft in texture.
  2. On each plate, create a small bed of Romaine.  Sprinkle even amounts of parsley over the lettuce.  Split the apple celery mix evenly between all plates and add on top of the lettuce mixture.  Then top with hazelnuts and Stilton.   Add another couple of teaspoons of dressing to each plate of salad, to taste.  Serve immediately.

This recipe was inspired by the folks at Cook’s Illustrated – https://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/1726-salad-with-apple-celery-hazelnuts-and-roquefort.

* Note about this recipe – you can substitute any cheese from the blue cheese family.  I prefer Stilton as it is one of the driest blue cheese varieties.  Be mindful that if you pick a traditional or Danish blue cheese that it is creamier and will coat your mouth.  This may dull some of the bright flavors in this salad.

Happy cooking, everyone!

 

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