Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lamb Leftovers

I know, I know, it's Saturday and no one has any business keeping that uneaten roast leg of lamb in her refrigerator this long. (Hopefully, you've done the prudent thing by portioning it out and freezing it days ago.) Wherever it is, get some out and try these two tasty recipes.
Like I mentioned on last Monday's show, if it's made with lamb it's Shepherd's Pie whereas the ground beef version is Cottage Pie. Don't get into an argument with family and friends about it though. Save the knock-down-drag-out for more important things like Bolognese Sauce.

Shepherd's Pie
Mashed Potatoes (Not giving a recipe for these as I'm sure everyone knows how to make mash. If you made a roast lamb, you've certainly gone past mashed potato class.)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 medium carrot chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
2 cups roast lamb
1 tablespoon four
3/4 cup meat or veg stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
(If using fresh herbs, triple the amount)
Pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400f.
Heat oil in skillet and saute chopped vegetables until soft.
Add chopped lamb and heat through.
Sprinkle in flour and stir through, cooking for about a minute so it loses its raw flavor.
Pour in stock and raise heat slightly, scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to loosen up anything that may have stuck. Continue stirring until thick.
Add seasonings and continue stirring for another minute.
Pour into an 8x8-inch baking pan, cover with mashed potatoes and dot with butter.
Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Years ago when we lived in Santa Monica, there was a Greek restaurant on Pico Blvd just a few blocks down the street from our apartment. It was my first introduction to Pastitsio, a baked pasta dish made with lamb ragu. Sadly, they closed before we could pay a second visit. But my memory of that lovely comfort food stayed with me for years. All this happened long before anyone had heard of that futurist development called the inter net, so finding recipes meant spending hours in bookstores looking for that elusive Greek cookbook that would hold the secret. Oddly enough, it wasn't the inter net (those I'm sure there are many recipes to be found there) or some book on Greek cookery but Martha Stewart who brought me (and many others) the recipe that would satisfy my years of craving that tasty dish from that little place in Santa Monica.
This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd. Perfect for a buffet or your contribution to a potluck supper. But if you're only feeding a few, you can halve the recipe and bake it in an 8x8-inch dish or a medium-sized gratin.


For the ragu:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cups chopped roast lamb
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
Several grindings of fresh black pepper
Pinch fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 six-oz can tomato paste
A few bay leaves
2 cups water

For the Bechamel:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon regular flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups milk
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt (plus more for cooking water)
a few grindings of fresh black pepper
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Butter for baking dish
1 pound medium shells (pasta)

1. Heat oil in large skillet and saute onions until soft. Add lamb, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg stirring to combine well and heat through. Add the wine and cook until nearly evaporated after which you will add the rest of the ragu ingredients stirring to combine. Heat to a simmer and cover cooking on low for 30 min. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Melt butter in large sauce pan then add flour and baking powder stirring for one minute with a wire whisk to prevent sticking and to cook flour to loose its raw taste. Raise heat and slowly pour in the milk, whisking all the time until sauce becomes thick and bubbly. Add cheese and seasoning, remove from heat and keep covered.
3. Preheat oven to 375f. Cook shells in salted water until not quite al dente (about 2 or 3 minutes short of package instructions) as they will be cooking further in the oven. Drain well in colander and mix with the ragu.
4. Butter a 13x9-inch baking pan and spread the pasta and ragu mixture evenly in the bottom.
Spread bechemel over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes or until top is nicely browned. (You may want to set a foil-lined baking sheet on the rack just below to catch any drips.)
Let set for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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