Sunday, July 3, 2011

Holiday Cooking

I used the three day weekend as an excuse to try something new cooking wise. I've been enamored in recent years with developing my skill with the long slow cooking of large pieces of meat using indirect fire. Part of the challenge of this is using wood or coal since anyone can get a consistent heat using a gas grill. This is work in progress. Part of the problem is since you using large chucks of meat you have a lot left over and with just Wife and I it isn't real practical to do this often and without the repetition, it's hard to refine the process.

Anyway enough bitching. I saw this version in a recent Saveur Magazine where you put a container of broth under the meat while it cooks providing moisture and giving a great broth for a sauce at the end.

I decided to go with a lamb shoulder.

Here is my roast over its broth pan (with onions, carrots and celery), coals pushed to both sides.
I started the fire around 7 in the morning. I put a dry rub of fresh rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil on the meat the night before. It took me a while to get the heat adjusted right but I think I've finally got the hang of the right combination for this grill. Not having done this before, I wasn't sure of how long it would take to get the meat tender and I was worried that I had the heat too high in the beginning so I had a back up plan to braise the meat in the broth at the end to get the right. So after 5 hours I decided to act on that plan. The meat was still a bit tough and the meat had a very strong lamb flavor. But the broth was incredibly sweet from the caramelization of the vegetables. I added some Dijon mustard (a tradition French accompaniment to lamb) and some red wine for acid to the broth and braised the meat for another hour and a half. That got the tenderness that I wanted and the sweet sour broth offset the strong lamb flavor. It was really good!

I served it up as pulled lamb in the sauce.
So to eat all this I had polled our list of designated eaters (people who are happy to come over for food and drink) and was able to secure 4 couples for this Saturday night affair. I assigned various dishes so Wife and I didn't have to do everything. However. Wife had a couple of things she wanted to do. One was bake two kinds of bread - a country loaf and some rolls.

Roll Dough

Dough rising

Finished breads
We also had a bunch of onions that I needed to harvest. So I went and caramelized them.

And since I wasn't sure how the lamb was going to go over I made some Mac and Cheese

Meanwhile Wife was going bonkers planning out her drinks station. She had the idea for doing muddled drinks (thinks like mojitos and caipahinas that take fruit and crush them with sugar before adding the spirits. So she had lemons, limes, blackberries (from the garden), mint, and basil. For spirits she had rum, cachaca, gin, and vodka.

Spirits and mixers

Fruit cutting and muddling station
Everyone brought wines and I supplied a variety of whiskeys for after dinner including a single batch bourbon and an artisanal rye whiskey.

One of our guests brought a beautiful tres leches cake that the bakery for some bizarre reason decided to decorate as a wedding cake????

Another brought some homemade truffles.

Evidence that our guests took the "dress relaxed" policy seriously.


alexis said...

wow, the pictures are even better than the description this weekend! What a feast!

Lakeview Coffee Joe said...

Nicely done with the grilling! Always good to have a backup plan.

Styling with Renee Michelle said...

Yum. And a fruit cutting and muddling station - brilliant. I keep hoping my husband will take up creative cocktail-ing (because I'm too busy cooking to do that too), but so far no luck.

terri said...

Having now seen you in action in the kitchen, I know this was no simple feat. I hope you had lots of time to enjoy all of the foods and drinks, because THAT was a LOT of food and drink!

And of course, it all looks and sounds delicious!

Bernice said...

I love the Mac and Cheese as a "fall back" dish. Everything looked great.

de-I said...

Actually Terri for once I had everything cooked well ahead of time and even had time for a nap before everyone arrived!

Pulisha said...

Wow, that looks awesome! Much better than our feast of street vendor hot dogs and pretzels, lol. Husband is drooling over Mom's bar offerings... she's raising expectations for X-mss! :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think I could pull off a lamb shoulder. I did a rub on a pot roast a few times before putting it in the slow cooker. I'm going to say that counts :)
I love mojitos! I've had homemade ones before too...they are very delicious.

Mike said...

Everything looks delicious, as usual. It appears that your guests agreed.