Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lamb smells like...

What do you do with ground lamb? You could do meatloaf which is normally a bit intense for me... burgers are always a big hit... bolognese is classic... keema matar?

I have to say that I've gotten quite better in my Indian food experiments. I'm not scared to try anymore and not even put off by the amount of time it takes. I just see a recipe and go full speed ahead. Saveur had an issue on Indian Cuisine a few months back and I had torn out the recipe for keema matar since I'm always looking for something to do with ground lamb. This recipe was straightfoward and turned out quite nicely. Lamb is always so fatty so the finished product was rather greasy but tasty all the same. A little greasiness does the body good.

Keema Matar
adapted from Saveur #109
serves an extended family

Make sure to fry your spices whole to enhance the flavor. The article called this technique "tarka."

6 cloves garlic
3 1⁄2" piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 tsp. plus 1 tbsp. garam masala
2 tsp. turmeric
1⁄3 cup ghee (I just used butter)
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1⁄2 tsp. cumin seeds
3 whole dried chiles de árbol (I couldn't find these so I used some unnamed dried chile that could've been hotter)
1 bay leaf
1 medium red onion, chopped
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1⁄2 lbs. ground lamb
3 medium plum tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Greek style yogurt
1 1⁄2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1⁄2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

Blend garlic, ginger, 2 tsp. garam masala, turmeric, and < 1⁄2 cup water into a blender and purée to a paste.

Melt the butter then add the coriander, cumin, chiles, and bay leaf. Fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion, season, and cook until golden. The more carmelized the onion, the more flavor. Add the blended spice paste and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is further caramelized. Add lamb, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once cooked through, add the tomatoes until soft and incorporated. I removed the bay leaf and chiles at this point. I wish I had of removed all of the whole spices because, even though they soften while cooking, they're still not very nice to bite into when you sit down to eat. Next time I might remove the whole spices right before adding the lamb.

Remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the garam masala, yogurt, peas, and cilantro. Season again if necessary and serve immediately with basmati rice.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wolfgang Puck

I recently had the opportunity to go to Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Downtown Disney for a cooking demonstration. I signed up for the event and spent the next couple days with fingers crossed thinking maybe Wolfgang would be there. The event details were very ambiguous and it involved a lot of really rich people so I didn't think the possibility was entirely out of the question. All of us were buzzing about it, thinking that maybe... well, he didn't show of course. In his place, his executive chefs put on a show for us. It felt a lot like a taping for a cooking show. It was less about eating and more about technique, hints, and recommendations.

The food was simple and not at all exciting but I would imagine they had to pick a pretty safe menu for a group of people with such a wide variety of tastes. There was no wine which I was kinda sad about especially after the nice pairings we had at the Grape. We started with a sushi making demo. After this I had absolutely no excuse not to try to make sushi at home. I have since tried making it at home with pretty decent results. I need more practice.

Next we went on to a salad that mainly helped illustrate some knife work tips. We had Wolfgang's Asian Chicken Salad. I found it rather bland. There wasn't nearly enough dressing to make it remotely "Asian" tasting. Maybe it was prepared in a hurry.

Next was a pasta dish that was my favorite. The chef didn't make pasta from scratch in front of us, unfortunately, but instead used frozen dough. The ravioli were stuffed with butternut squash and served in a brown butter sauce with fried sage and pine nuts. Really tasty!

Finally we finished the demo with the pastry chef. He broke out his blowtorch and quickly showed us how to make creme brulee. He also showed us some plating techniques for desserts. He made it look very pretty but I think my recipe tastes better.