Fourth of July BBQ at FNBF's! And I grabbed the opportunity to bake as well as make Martha's Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb. Martha says to use a boneless leg of lamb, but Fairway was featuring only boned legs, so I figured, Hey, it's an opportunity to take Martha's Leg of Lamb boning lesson.
How to Bone a Leg of Lamb (p. 114)
There were three lamb leg options at Fairway: Whole Leg of Lamb (huge, too big by three for this size group), Lamb Shank, and Lamb Butt. The butcher told me I should go for the Shank, which I did. But I just did a little Google research and the butt (aka half-leg sirloin) might have been a better move. The butt is the top of the hind leg, the shank is the lower part, the butt is considered to be meatier and more tender, and the shank is described as leaner, tougher, chewier, flavorful.
I have to say, the process of boning the leg of lamb was quite time-consuming for a neophyte. The first step involves trimming away all the fat and sinew on the outside of the leg, and this is something you can spend hours doing. There's an endless amount of fat and sinew on this thing.
Cutting the bone out is pretty straightforward, although there's a joint in there that slowed me down for a while. Once the bone was cut out, I did a little more trimming, and the meat almost unfurled before me. Eventually there was one large piece of meat and then all these little islands of pieces, barely connected. I think maybe I got a little overambitious with my trimming of sinew, and I ended up separating what would normally have been bigger chunks of meat.
In any case, I feel like I know my way around a Lamb Shank now.
Jeff: A- (Too much trimming?)
How to Butterfly a Leg of Lamb (p. 115)
Since there was only one piece of the leg that was thick enough to butterfly, this ended up being quick and easy. Butterflying makes a lot of sense. You slice all but one inch of the meat in half, then you open it up and flatten it out. This is all so the meat will cook evenly. Brilliant. I'm going to do this with chicken breasts!
Fresh Herb and Garlic Marinade (p. 173)
The lamb recipe calls for a double recipe of this marinade, i.e. two cups of chopped herbs and 24 cloves of chopped garlic. And you have to do it the day before you want to serve the lamb, because it has to marinate for a while. I made this the same day I made dinner for Marcy. I was telling her about this recipe and how long it took for me to chop everything, and she said, Did you do it in the food processor? Doh! I felt really stupid.... Next time.
This marinade is really flavory. Every time I tasted it, it was positively spicy with garlic.
Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb (p. 171)
Martha says to marinate the meat for 8-24 hours. I always like extra flavor, so I went for the whole 24. You could smell this marinade from a mile away, so garlicky!
Because FNBF's grill doesn't have a lot of power, we had to cook the lamb a little longer than Martha indicated (so what else is new?). I have to confess, I forgot to do one step of this, the part where you add more marinade after you turn over the lamb.
No matter. This lamb was DELICIOUS! And it was cooked perfectly. We took it off when the thickest part was 125°, as directed, and it was just right. Mostly medium rare, with some medium areas and some rare areas for those who preferred. The flavor was incredible, and the texture was great, too.
This should be a BBQ staple!
Rhubarb Pie (p. 444)
Again, I made pie crust in a hot apartment. Recipe for disaster....
Since I knew I wanted to make the Fruit Galette for the BBQ, and it requires half a Pâte Brisée recipe, I thought I'd just use the other half for a pie while I was at it. Of course, this pie wouldn't be a double-crusted pie, since I'd only have half of the Pâte Brisée recipe, so I made the Rhubarb Pie recipe from the book with no top crust. (Plus, I felt like I had to hurry up with the rhubarb recipes because Tori Landau scared me into thinking that it was going to be out of season soon... and I have the shortcakes with rhubarb compote yet to do!!)
I scoped around my cookbooks and the internet to see if there are common adjustments to make if you switch a recipe from double-crust to single, but I couldn't find anything, so I went ahead with the recipe as written, minus the top crust.
Rhubarb is a strange creation. I wasn't sure what to make of it, which parts of it were usable, which weren't. The rule of thumb I invented was, if I can cut it, I'm putting it in. There were parts, mostly the bottom of the stalks, which I literally couldn't cut, and I thought that I should probably leave those out. The stalks switch from white to red to green, and I was being very equal opportunity about the color. I hope that I didn't put anything inedible in my pie....
Rolling out the crust is still a disaster for me. I definitely need remedial crust-rolling. I will look online for a Martha video, or I'll make Paula come over and tutor me. But not before I have air-conditioning. :-)
Crust aside, the pie baked seemingly well. After baking it for 10 minutes at 400°, then Martha says 50-80 minutes at 375°. I left it in the whole time, because I didn't see any good bubbling action until around 80 minutes, and I know that it's important for it to bubble to activate the cornstarch. I had to tent it with foil around minute 65, because the crust was getting brown, but ultimately, it came out looking pretty decent, if a bit rustic.
I have to say, it tasted pretty great! I was concerned that the rhubarb wouldn't be sweet enough, but there's enough sugar added that it tastes plenty sweet and very satisfying. I daresay, it was a hit.
Jeff: A- (For possible misuse of rhubarb and horrifying rolling technique in a hot kitchen)
Fruit Galette (p. 440)
And then there was the Fruit Galette...
This is probably as close to a true disaster as I've experienced in this project so far.
This is a tart-y kind of creation. A pie crust gets rolled out, fruit gets plopped on top, and then the crust is folded over the fruit creating an intentionally rustic pie.
Because of the hot kitchen, the crust was a drag to roll. Also, I think I put in too much fruit. And I probably should have reserved some of the fruit liquid.
I say all this because before I even had a chance to fold the crust over the fruit, there was fruit juice running everywhere, and the crust was getting soggy and unfoldable. One side of the crust was completely compromised, and once it started baking, there was a constant stream of juice pouring out of the galette. Eeek.
Thank goodness I cooked this on one of those silicone baking mats, because the clean up would have been horrifying: there was a tarry, black crust of fruit juice surrounding the whole pie by the time this was done baking.
The next thing that happens is: you put it (with the mat) on a rack to cool for 15 minutes. Transferring the mat to the rack was tricky, but do-able. Then, after that's cooled, you move the tart off the mat onto the rack to cool some more. This was when I became fully aware of how disastrous things really were. Separating the tart from the mat was nigh impossible. That layer of juice tar was both sticky and crunchy, so sliding it off wasn't an option. Additionally, the crust itself was soggy and unmovable. I used an offset spatula to disconnect it from the mat, and then I tried to do a tricky move where I rolled the mat out from under the tart, carefully delivering it to the rack underneath. You can see in the photo how that went.
So I had a plum tart in 6 pieces. Luckily, the pizza-sized tupperware that I used to transport it was a little smaller than the tart itself, so I assembled the pieces in the container to look like one continuous tart. It's all in the styling....
Meanwhile, it just didn't taste that good. I used plums, as did Martha in the book, and since I knew my plums were not that sweet, I used a little extra sugar, but clearly not enough. This tart was TART!
The crust tasted OK, but that tarry undertaste was unpleasant. This was edible, but it was most definitely NOT a hit.
Jeff: C (Need I explain?)
Until we eat again...
Clockwise from left: Ryan (one of my BFFs), Jim (my good friend and one of Ryan's BFFs), Antonio (Paula's FNBF), Paula (my FNBF's BFF), and in front of Ryan, the amazing, sliced lamb.