Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter





All the flowers except these were held in my grandma V's crystal





















Well it's a good thing that I declared my acceptance of imperfection; as my Good Friday dinner wasn't quite perfect.  I went to extensive lengths trussing my leg of lamb roast to make sure it kept a nice, full roast shape.  I cooked it sous vide at 139F for about 19 hours and then seared it in a scorching cast iron skillet.  The flavor was absolutely phenomenal and the texture of the meat was perfect. Because searing with butcher's twine still attached can be dicey and very smoky, I thought I could get away with removing it and my skewer supports.  Assuming the shape was set was a mistake and my lamb roulade quickly un-rouladed into one long strip.  I'm quite sure mumbling under my breath God damn it you motherfucker don't unroll, don't unroll...SHIT! isn't appropriate--well, ever--but especially not on Good Friday.  Luckily no one heard me over the exhaust fan.  In order to maximize surface area, I opted to sever this rather unsightly looking behemoth into three smaller pieces. The motive with this step is to get an attractive brown crust quickly and to keep the middle as close to 139F as possible.  If lamb is on your agenda, I would highly recommend the seasoning I used.  It was essentially a highly flavored pesto.  2 heads of deeply roasted garlic, 1 lemon, 20ish green olives, a ton of parsley, thyme, oregano, mint, dry mustard, olive oil, and a little red wine vinegar (and salt and pepper).  I coated the lamb and let it marinate in its sous vide bag for 24 hours before I cooked it. In my opinion, lamb needs a heavy hand with seasoning and this fit the bill.  I prefer lamb more in the medium range than rare or medium rare, so that's what I was aiming for. 

The organic parsley growers in California love me


a tabbouleh-esque salad inspired by an old Ina Garten recipe



My grandpa shared his excitement to revisit Copenhagen's exquisite cultural gem, Museum Erotica, in a few weeks. In his words, the Hermitage is pretty good, but you wouldn't believe this place! It's incredible.  He'll be disappointed to hear it closed in 2009, but I'll let someone on the ship break the news to him. He didn't ask for ketchup, but did need to remind me that normal people have at least one salt shaker.  I reminded him of the time I bought him a normal salt shaker and he didn't want to use it because he thought my kosher salt tasted better.  Which is too big for a normal salt shaker. I was also confronted with my acceptance of knowing if fine china and crystal is used, a break here or there is inevitable.  As my poor sister broke one of my glasses. 

My mom made this beautiful tablecloth, 52 box pleats! 



Grandma N's pitcher on the left and grandma V's on the left.
Two very different women with very different tastes, but
I think they go together quite well. 























So from using the lord's name in vain (on Good Friday, no less) over an imperfect roulade, to my grandpa telling us about how not everything on a "midget" (little person, I know) is small "they have a statue at the museum, you've gotta see it", to trying to make my sister feel better about breaking a glass, the evening was assuredly imperfect.  The lamb still looked beautiful, I have a family that can laugh when something is funny and few things are off limits, which means we all really know each other.  I understand my grandpa and L as real people, not just as figures, and my life is richer for it.  Though he doesn't plan to go anywhere soon--besides a defunct sex museum in Denmark--there will be a time when he and L are not here; and the memory of laughing uproariously about something vulgar with everyone at the table will seem absolutely perfect.  

40 comments:

  1. Ah, that's the beauty of family, isn't it? A bunch of imperfect people we know far too well all getting together at certain times a year. What a great post. Despite what you see as a failure in your lamb, it still was served beautifully! You make me want to kick up my Passover seder a notch and make it a little more elegant!

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    1. Happy Passover to you! haha you are so right! Although my family does see each other very often and I think that's why the conversation so easily slips into the offensive and inappropriate! Especially as there are lots of differing political views! Thank you so much! Are you having your dinner outside?

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    2. Well, the wind has been monstrous, so not unless it dies down. It's certainly been warm enough, but when the wine glasses go flying off the table, it's a bit much lol.

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  2. You are such a talented smartass! If you had your own restaurant it would be one in a million. Not a soul out there can beat your presentation, menus, table settings, flower arrangements or attitude! Do your family members know how lucky they are?

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    1. Haha! Thank you so much. I used to think I'd love to have a restaurant but catering cured me of that! A few years ago I thought about it again as I came across a really cool, small space with a full kitchen in a nice spot for $1500/month but thankfully for my sake someone snatched it up quickly! I couldn't handle the stress of owning a restaurant. My family is very appreciative but I will say that they have paid their dues with me! They've had to deal with a lot so I'm happy to do this as an extended apology :) and I'm sure most home cooks are far more jovial than I am as I push people OUT of the kitchen!

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  3. Dinner looks delicious and the flowers in crystal divine.
    It's funny how things can go awry in the kitchen and how we adapt....seems like they happen more when we are cooking for company....I once served pears with chocolate sauce and I had the pears all plated ready for dessert and they were in the fridge and my fridge was obviously on the fritz because they froze and when we tried to eat them they skidded off the plates leaving a chocolate trail on the white linen tablecloth....more wine was consumed and we skipped dessert...I didn't want to pay for any dentists bills!
    Embracing imperfection is really a sensible idea...your family might not be perfect but that is reality...sounds like a wonderful evening, with laughter and good cheer. One for the memory book!

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    1. Thank you! Oh that's so funny about the pears! yes ther are some times you need to cut your losses and just move on!

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  4. Your dinner looks perfectly splendid! Imperfect, my ass. I am sure it was exquisite! And yes, I'd have let every expletive in the book rip at your lamb story, too. Thanks for the laugh!

    Enjoy your long weekend!

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    1. Thank you :) same to you! Ugh I'm still a little mad at myself over the lamb!

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  5. If by chance, your grandpa is going to be in Naples tell him to be sure to visit the secret room at the National Archaeological Museum....I think he would appreciate it!

    Your lamb dinner looks a triumph as does your mother's tablecloth.

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    1. Thank you so much! I don't think Italy is on the agenda this trip, but he uses any excuse possible to go to Europe so I'm sure when I give him your travel tip he'll start planning at once!

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  6. First, I have to say congratulations to your mother for making that tablecloth - it is a triumph of the sewist's art!
    Your lamb dinner looks quite wonderful, the flowers and presentation gorgeous. Your family sounds such fun!

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    1. She will be so excited that you said this! It was a lot of work and she has a serious set of skills. She is the ultimate perfectionist and she's not thrilled with how the pattern lines up in a few spots, but I adore it. She has a habit of making masterpieces and then tearing them apart and starting over! thanks so much! She also made the slipcovers for the chairs, which have such a taught fit they look like upholstery. I tell her all the time she needs to start a sewing blog.

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  7. Happy Easter! I think it all looks wonderful- the lamb is so nice you've never even know! Table cloth stunning and I am sad too about the glass. If you lived closer I'd invite you round for drinks xxxx

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    1. Thank you, FF! Same to you! I just told myself that for any broken item I get to shop for replacements which isn't too bad! Cant wait to see your Easter action. Am I safe in assuming there was gratuitous ham handling? Or did you dare to indulge in some prawnographic content?

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    2. no ham this year! no prawns! who am I????

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  8. That tablecloth is seriously divine and the fabric couldn't be more perfect for this time of year. Your mom has some serious skills!
    Your grandfather sounds hysterical and you are lucky to have him around. My grandfather passed in 2012 at 90 years old and although we couldn't have been more grateful to have had so much time with him in our lives, the thought of never hearing that voice again or seeing that face was devastating. So I'm with you on letting it go - life is sometimes so perfectly imperfect.

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    1. Thank you! I will pass that along to her. She really does! I know I absolutely love the fabric. It reminds me of a garden trellis so that's why I kind of went wild with the flowers. I wanted it to have that English country look of just a little too much. Oh I'm so sorry about your grandpa! I'm sure he loved coming to your house for dinner!

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  9. I agree about your momma's sewing skills. That tablecloth is giving me serious envy. Are those roasted vegetables? They look seriously delicious. Lovely dinner presentation! What a lovely dinner and lovely memories.

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    1. Thank you! I know I love it so much. The pleats really make it look like a skirt. It has so much presence but doesn't hang in your lap which I like. So what I do with the veggies is cook them fajita style after I brown the meat. It's something I do a lot as it's quick and delicious and so pretty. A key element is marinating the veggies and having them at room temp when you throw them in the super hot cast iron. If they're cold, they'll steam before brown which means they take longer to cook, lose their vivid color, and lose their fresh snap. I put them in in batches so that they're not piled on top of each other. I have a 17 inch cast iron so it helps that there's so much surface area. I can usually do just two batches. A smaller pan would take more. I also highly recommend this seasoning mix: salt, cumin, chili powder, sliced garlic, and olive oil. No black pepper as I think at this high heat it tastes a little cigarettey. Just my preference though.

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    2. Oh thank you for the details on veggies! I have a huge cast iron pan and hate turning on my oven during the nice season. I'm doing this! And I had to laugh at the cigarettey taste comment. I'm a former smoker (since 1997) and can relate to that memory.

      I'm making these veggies asap.

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  10. Everything was just beautiful...but it all pales in comparison to your grandpa's remark about "not everything on a midget is small". What a hoot!!!!

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    1. Thank you! Haha he can always be counted on for a trove of dirty jokes! Hope you had a great Easter!

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  11. Adore your imperfection acceptance -- love your unpretentious writing -- your platter skills are amazing -- and it makes me smile to see someone else use their grandmother's crystal for little informal flower arrangements, as I do. I really enjoy your blog.

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    1. Hello, Nancy! thank you so much. I really appreciate that! When I went through my grandma V's stuff there were so many little crystal sugar and creamers. I decided to take most of them and am so glad I did because I use them all the time for little groupings of flowers. So great that you have your grandmother's pieces too!

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  12. I am so very impressed with your presentation and with your cooking skills. You obviously have been cooking for a long time to create such an interesting menu and preparing it so lovingly for your family! I just discovered your blog and have not read previous posts but certainly intend to! Thanks for a fun and honest post! Janie

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    1. Hello, Janie! Thank you so much! I didn't grow up in a cooking family at all, so everyone was very very supportive when I started! I started cooking when I was 10. The first thing I ever made was a boxed cake with my friend...we were pretending we were on TV and she was Oprah and I was Martha Stewart! And from there the obsession grew exponentially. Thanks again for your comment!

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    2. Oh my gosh the end of your response made me laugh SO hard.

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  13. Stephen,
    Seriously, your mom made that??? It is absolutely GORGEOUS!!!! I love the pleats - so tailored and sophisticated. The entire table looks beautiful. I'm sure the food was divine.
    Cheers

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    1. I will pass that along, Loi! She will be especially flattered as she loves your blog. Actually I grew up with the phrase TONE ON TONE being hammered into my head. She is allllll about it and always has been. She's as partial to Scandinavian as I am to English country, so there are many things in your shop she'd love!

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  14. Your tablecloth is so chic, and I'm seriously stealing your mom's style and having one made.
    I read that skirted tables are making a comeback too, this year; but I didn't know they had ever gone away.

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    1. Thank you! Haha if you don't mind, please let me know how much it costs to have one made. Id love to give my mom an idea of that. I'm with you-a skirted table is never wrong!

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  15. When I think back to those months where I was stuck in the States last year with my visa issues...even though I was very worried most of the time...the FIRST thing that comes to my mind is an image of sitting around the table with my Mom and her Husband and us all laughing until we cried. That happened a lot. Especially on the nights when Leonard would make maragaritas (let's just say they are nearly brown as he puts in so much taquila). Families are complicated but oh so so amazing. The older I get, the more grateful I am for them.

    Stephen, this is all so gorgeous - every last detail. I don't think your Mom should start a blog but a business! Seriously! And hopefully you already know how much I admire your cooking and presentation. It is all just perfect (an aside about the broken glass: you are a better person than I am because I wouldn't even let my honey THINK about using the Baccarat glasses at Easter. We were doing a wine degustation with the meal, I knew that we would be drinking a lot and one would get broken - so they stayed in the china closet!).

    If I ever DO get you over here, we will definitely make lamb for you. It definitely depends on the time of year but where we live in the Alpilles has some of the best lamb in France. You can do a lot to it if you want (my favorite is Remi's lamb with a lavender honey and lavender flower crust) but it doesn't need it. See? Another reason to tempt you here.

    Thank you for another beautiful post. My heart caught in my throat reading that final sentence.
    Bisous,
    H

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    1. Oh L sounds like a man after my own heart! In my opinion, a marg MUST be made with bottom shelf gritty gold Jose Cuervo and lots of it. It has the best marg flavor in my opinion.
      Okay so you do know the approach to take with me as you can probably imagine my dreams of shopping in French markets while eating a baguette and swigging wine. I absolutely love the flavor of lavender and honestly wish I would have thought to cook mine with a lavender crust. That sounds SO good. I'd love if you'd post just the gist of that recipe. Doesn't have to be exact, but just how she makes the crust/fresh or dry lavender.

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  16. Dear Stephen,
    I just read your comment on FF about your 'Auntie Mame' grandmother. I had one, too. They were the best....where are those women now? How are we supposed to have role models? I went to your blog because of your story and was delighted that you are in Columbus....I am in Cleveland! Many trips to Columbus for shopping. You are bookmarked!

    Warmly, Kathleen



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    1. Oh you're so right! I feel very lucky to have had her. Thanks for coming here to leave a comment! Funny how things change-people in Columbus used to have to go to Cleveland or Cincinnati for good shopping!

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  17. I had an AUNT who we called AUNTIE MAME..............
    Your table looked picture perfect and I am certain your meal was too!

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  18. It is too good post having so wonderful data and good pictures. I will appreciate this post. You did impressive work.


    Sous Vide

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  19. I'd never visited your blog before, although I've seen you commenting around. What a beautiful table.

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  20. Very informative, keep posting such good articles, it really helps to know about things.

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