Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My first cooking post (Lamb Pasanda)

Back when I started this blog, I planned to use it as a place to share some of my passions and skills with all of you. I've done a good job with some of those things (sports, current events, economic analysis), a reasonable job on some others (running, music, The Simpsons), and a terrible job on the rest—most notably, cooking. I love to cook, and I do it all the time, but besides a few posts here and there about food and our food supply, I haven't talked about it here at all. That changes today.

Every week or so—or whenever I cook up a meal that I'm particularly proud of—I'll share a recipe up here with all of you, along with some helpful hints as to how you can cook it yourself. No, I'm not going to turn this into some sort of amateur food blog—the world has plenty of those already. But I do feel as though there's a side of me that isn't being reflected here, and I think I should rectify that starting today.

This weekend was Easter weekend, and the weather is just starting to improve around here, so I took the opportunity to fire up the grill and cook one of my all-time favorites, a recipe first discovered by my father, the original grill master in my family. That recipe is for Lamb Pasanda, and it's a true classic—the recipe is a little different from what's described as "traditional pasanda" here on Wikipedia, but believe me, it's awesome. It's also insanely easy to make, especially if you've got a good blender like I was lucky enough to be given for Christmas last year.

If you've never used yogurt in a meat marinade, you are most definitely missing out. The yogurt tenderizes the meat while giving it an awesomely funky flavor, and the charring from the grill takes it all to the next level. Throw in some Indian-inspired spices and the terrific natural flavor of lamb, and this dish is as delicious as it is unique. But enough rambling; let's get to the recipe.


Serves: 6 or more, depending on the size of lamb leg you buy
Time: about 30 minutes of active prep, 12-24 hours of inactive prep, and 10-20 minutes of cook time

 One 3-pound leg of lamb (boneless), butterflied and trimmed of excess fat
3 cups plain yogurt, well drained
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
One 1-inch piece grated fresh ginger
1-1/2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon, 1 tablespoon whole cloves, and 4 cardamoms (powdered equivalents can vary... call it 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1.5 or 2 teaspoons of cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon or so of cardamom... rough estimates, of course, and you can switch it up to suit your tastes)
Cut the butterflied lamb leg into individual pieces—two-inch cubes is a good target size. Set aside.

To make the marinade, combine all ingredients except the lamb in the container of a food processor or blender, and process until smooth.

Place the lamb and the marinade in a gallon-size Ziploc bag, tossing the pieces a bit so that they are well coated. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight (really, aim for overnight), turning occasionally to keep the coating well distributed.

One hour before cooking time, remove the lamb from the refrigerator (and maybe remove the individual lamb pieces from the marinade) so that it can come to room temperature. Place the lamb pieces directly onto a hot grill (charcoal is much better than gas for this recipe, especially because this one can get a little messy underneath the grill grates... also, I highly recommend a chimney starter as opposed to lighter fluid, but now I'm just veering off topic. Nevertheless, if you've never used a chimney, start now. It's easy, it's cheap, and it gets your coals very hot, very quickly. Bobby Flay would be proud). 

Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of each piece, how hot (and how big) your grill is, and where on the grill your pieces are sitting, but it should be roughly 4-6 minutes per side. Resist the temptation to cover your grill. It will cook the meat through more quickly, but you'll sacrifice some of the charring that makes this meal so great.

When the lamb is done, you should have a nice char on each side of the meat, and when you press each piece with your finger, it should be firm but still have some "bounce" to it. Rare meat is much better than dry meat, so err on the side of "too rare", unless you're pregnant, afraid of blood, or both.

Serve immediately, along with some sort of vegetable (a simple grilled or broiled asparagus is fine) and a grain (like, say, couscous—for this meal I whipped up a quinoa salad with toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries, and a citrus-mint vinaigrette... but that was for a holiday. You don't need to go crazy here...). If you're into wine, the beauty of this dish is that it can pair well with any number of wines. I served it with a Côtes du Rhône this weekend, and that seemed to work well, but I'd think that the meal would've stood up nicely against a Syrah or even a Malbec as well.

I don't know, I'm not a sommelier, I just like to drink wine with my dinner, okay? Maybe next time I'll get around to telling you about my dessert, which was in this case a nice, fresh, Key Lime Pie. Awesome stuff. Happy cooking, all. (And next time, I promise more pictures... I didn't think to take any this time around, so that one standard picture up there of my grill loaded up with meat will have to suffice, but I will take more in the future).

1 comment:

  1. Well played. Food of the Gods, as Grandpa said.