Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curry-Rubbed Lamb Ribs

Two years ago this time, gentle reader, you could not get through a restaurant review in a New York–based publication without encountering the R-word: “recession.” And we're still feeling the culinary repercussions of that market meltdown.

See, back in the '09, with the economy a bigger hot mess than a school-cafeteria Sloppy Joe, the sanctimonious contingent of the Brooklyn restaurant scene (think seasonal/local/sustainable/blah-blah-blah) eagerly embraced the frugal, down-home aesthetic of “upscale comfort food”—often, a euphemism for “We buy cheap cuts of meat and cook them for a long-ass time, and for that we will charge you in the vicinity of $20 for a small but beautifully plated portion of some obscure, newly acceptable part of the animal.”

The economy has theoretically picked up, but this credo of Brooklyn restaurant cooking remains rampant. And while I love rich, slow-cooked, meat-based dining—and respect the bargain-hunter impetus behind it—I resent the massive markup. So I was excited when I saw a 4-pound breast of lamb ribs—a cut I had tried only twice, each time at trendy Brooklyn restaurants that shall remain nameless, since I genuinely enjoyed and do not want to badmouth them—for $4 at a market on Washington Ave.

Lifelong lover of lamb though I am, I was utterly unfamiliar with preparation methods for this cut, and hence worried about my ability to cook down the significant layer of fat without drying out the meat. But for $4, I decided to go for it. I'd say this should serve one or two people.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kale, Yeah!

This morning, I saw a commercial that may well earn a spot in the Annoying NY1 Ad Hall of Fame alongside Pillow Pets and the Sarah MacLachlan abused-animals-wondering-what-they-did-wrong ones. In it, a woman says something like, “Don’t you wish vegetables didn’t taste so vegetable-y?”


Of course, my mind immediately went to Alyce’s “Veggie Rage” post expressing, well, rage at those who would make us feel vegetables are something to be endured rather than enjoyed. (I believe the ad went on to tout some product that made a mix of fruit and vegetable juices taste solely like fruit, but even if I did recall its name I certainly wouldn’t plug it.)

Now, I like a big hunk of meat as much as the next guy—and by "next guy" I mean Homer Simpson marveling at the “wonderful, magical animal” that makes pork, bacon, and ham. But I also appreciate the flavor and texture of veggies in their own right, not when disguised as meat or fruit or what have you. If I’m going to make vegetables, they’re damn well going to taste vegetable-y.

In that spirit, here’s a recipe for kale—much like Brussels sprouts, a super-nutritious green that is often unfairly maligned because people don’t know the simple ways to cut its bitterness and bring out its intense flavor ... which turns out to be a surprisingly great complement to a rich meat-driven dish.

The proportions of this recipe are easily multiplied. Tonight I was cooking for myself; I used half a bunch of kale, which as it turned out could have been two generous servings. Note: A bunch of raw kale looks like it could feed an army, but cooks down to a fraction of its size, so resist the urge to use far less than a recipe calls for.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pork Loin On the Go

Gentle reader, I recently got a real job. Yes, after years of freelancing, I took a staff position, which has brought such magical developments as visits from the money fairy (a.k.a. direct deposit) and the prospect of finally getting my teeth cleaned.

Another plus: I can pick up groceries in the neighborhood where I work, which was not an option at my previous gig in Times Square—an area so devoid of grocery stores, I frequently saw people in line at the Duane Reade with baskets full of staples like milk and cereal. Kind of depressing that in the greatest food city in the world, people are grocery-shopping at a chain pharmacy.

Anyhoo. I have spoken before of how my matrilineal heritage of old-fashioned home cooking involves the use of condiment packets. So last Friday, I took it into my head to marinate a pork loin using ingredients found in my office kitchen, while I enjoyed happy hour with a friend.

(Mind you, if you're not into eating dinner late, you might want to save this recipe for a weekend, since it does take a while. You could also marinate the pork the night before and refrigerate it overnight, but it will still need time to come to room temperature and to roast.)

Here’s how it went down: