Whew. I’ve had a few bad days in the kitchen.
I’ll spare you photographs of the disasters. I’ve been thinking about each and every one, however. And each failure reinforced my intention to write recipes that work.
You see, each of these, um, challenges in the kitchen was about the quality of the recipe, I’m sure of it.
I tried making macarons from a recipe found at a very reputable site. There were technique suggestions I’d never seen before. I made the recipe three times. The first time, clearly the baking time was wrong as they were deeply brown two minutes before they were even supposed to be done. The second attempt produced flat, no-feet cookies from the outset. The third time, the cookies formed and some even made little feet, but the tops cracked and collapsed on themselves. I even omitted duck egg whites because I wondered if they had some sort of different chemistry. There’s something wrong with the recipe. The ratio is different than other macaron recipes so I should have known, right? I’m just going back to what worked. And I’m going back annoyed.
And this was not the only failure. I began to worry I’d lost my mojo. as I was throwing food away and muttering under my breath. Thinking about my own recipes. Generally, I’ve tested a recipe three or four times before I publish it, but will admit to also enthusiastically blogging a recipe that I’ve just made up, served for dinner, liked a lot, and wanted to share. I hope in either instance, the recipe will work for you. And please, won’t you let me know if something doesn’t work, or – especially – if you’ve made an improvement?
Last week, Sharon, a twitter friend and reader, tried the Yankee Baked Beans and had an issue with the cooking times. I made the recipe again, just to see what happens when the beans are a little older. Dennis’ Christmas stocking contained a few bags of heirloom beans, and the white marrow beans were nearly six months old. The total cooking time for those beans was SEVEN hours. Twice as long as my recipe. I’m so glad Sharon pointed this – and more – out, and made me test the recipe one more time. And Rebecca also tried the and her beans took NINE hours! So, there is something incorrect in the timing, for sure, and I apologize. The beans taste great, but give yourself plenty of time to cook them. (Rebecca and I hypothesize the tomatoes add acid which toughen the beans. The toughness can be cooked out of them, but it takes a long time.)
Kim and I are working on a book proposal. I’m writing and testing recipes all the time now, and trying to develop some sort of consistent way to communicate the information. This great piece of advice from JustCookNYC has me more conscious of the way I provide the information, write the instructions, and use photographs to explain technique.
Here’s what I know for sure – I don’t want to disappoint any of you.
Herb and Garlic Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb
Adapted from this Food52 recipe
1 c rough chopped parsley – either curly or Italian flat leaf
1/2 c rough chopped mint leaves
4 – 5″ stalks of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
2 – 2″ pieces of fresh marjoram, leaves picked off
6 garlic cloves, preferably confit
1/2 c olive oil
2 T oil from garlic confit
4# boneless leg of lamb, cut into five pieces, separating the muscle group when possible
In the food processor, blitz all the herbs, garlic and oils.
In a large bowl, combine the lamb with the herb mixture, massaging the marinade into the meat.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Heat the gas grill to medium high. Allow it to heat up to 425° – about 20 minutes on my grill.
Brush oil on the grill racks. Try an oil dampened rag held with your tongs as the “brush.”
Work quickly using your asbestos hands and long tongs.
Place the lamb pieces on the grill, turn the heat down to medium and close the lid.
Prepare foil to be used to rest the meat after grilling. You want two large pieces of foil at the ready.
Grill for seven minutes. Turn the meat – if it sticks, stop trying to turn it, close the lid, and cook two minutes longer. When the meat is ready to be turned, it will release easily.
Grill for another 5-7 minutes on the second side and remove from the grill. There should be pretty grill marks on both sides. Pretty grill marks only happen when you don’t mess with the meat.
Wrap well in double foil packets and rest on a stack of newspapers or a wooden board (not on a cold stone counter top.)
Rest the meat for 10 minutes.
Slice and serve fanned pieces with a parsley/garlic/preserved lemon gremolata or a deeply rich sauce of well-reduced lamb broth, red wine and aromatics mixed with the juices from the “resting packets.”
My tweaks – due to the appearance of spring chives in the garden and the last of a jar of garlic confit – I made a composed butter of chive, butter, salt and garlic confit, chilled it well, then placed a fat pat of buttery goodness over the top of the oil drizzled, salted and peppered, fan-cut potatoes. These spuds were amazing. Seriously, totally, utterly, knock me over with a feather fantastic. It takes only 45 minutes, so it’s a great weeknight idea to fancy up dinner.
I mixed together olive oil, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt and pepper and poured this concoction over stemmed, trimmed artichokes. Roasted at 425° for 45 minutes (right along side the potatoes.) Once opened up, the interior heart and leaves were tender and exceptionally flavorful.
Cara-Cara Orange and Strawberry Curd
adapted from this recipe on Food52
I used this curd to fill the not-so-pretty macarons. And today, I plan to use the rest of it for a similar shortbread cookie.