April 13, 2012

Black Currant Lamb (or Not-Lamb)

I've come a long way since this disaster cake.
When M and I were engaged, we had a lot going on.

M had been diagnosed with an extremely aggressive cancer in his brain, I had "lost" my job under very strange circumstances, 

We were planning a wedding.

M had to keep working in order to keep his health insurance.  Things were stressful and tense and difficult.

So when we came upon our anniversary- our last dating anniversary- I wanted to do something special.

Now, I know a lot of couples who were hesitant to marry because of resetting their anniversaries.  It can feel like a betrayal to go from measuring some number, sometimes a very large number, of years- and starting over at one.  M and I had been dating long enough that our anniversary was very special to us, and we both understood that celebrating yet another occasion in December was probably pointless when we'd have our wedding anniversary in May.  So, I wanted to make that last dating anniversary meaningful.

The second time I cooked meat-
my variation of "Surf n' Turf"
What could I do, I wondered, to ensure that he remembered our last dating anniversary?  What could I give him that would illustrate not only how well I knew and loved him, but also how happy I was to be committing to him in new, meaningful ways?

I did something that, to certain members of my family, was almost unthinkable.

I cooked my future husband meat for dinner.

My parents are both vegetarians.  Actually- my mother is vegan.  My parents became vegetarians before they met (it was one of the things they bonded over), and they started dating when they were fifteen.

As I'm sure you can imagine, they raised me and my sisters as vegetarians as well.

My older sister eventually began eating meat.  My younger sister spent many years being utterly neurotic about having it around her (she still detests being around people eating certain varieties of meat- oddly the exact opposite varieties that bother me).

I tasted a chicken nugget once.  That was pretty much the end of my mean adventures.

But I love to cook.

Now, M had never asked me to cook him meat.  He had been clear that he would never ask me to cook him meat.  As far as he was concerned, cooking was something awesome that I did for him because I was awesome, and asking me to do something I didn't want to do is simply against his nature.

He's one of those kinds of dudes that should be an example to dudes everywhere.  But I digress.

I decided that for this one, very special, occasion I would make him a meal that he would never forget.

I went out and bought two books.  The first was a book called "What's A Cook To Do?"  It is filled with descriptions of what foods are supposed to look like, how to prepare them, and a few basic methods.  It is *not* a cookbook, but rather a guide for somebody who has simply never cooked with a long list of ingredients in order to teach them to do it properly.

You know, like a vegetarian who has never even watched somebody cook meat in her life.

It's illustrated with full color photographs.  It's awesome.

I also picked up a totally mundane, totally boring cookbook aimed at quick, simple recipes that are basically idiot proof.  I figured I'd need that.

Then my research began.  How does one cook meat?

I read all the sections on reading different kinds of meat.  After careful consideration, I decided that I would have the most success with lamb.


SO helpful.
I was terrified of chicken.  I was sure that if I tried cooking chicken, I would kill my husband.

I was intimidated by steak, and repulsed by ground beef.

I was totally out of my league when it came to fish- the warnings against overcooking really threw me off.

But lamb?  According to the book, it's supposed to be rare.  It's supposed to be cooked quickly.

I figured I had it in me to cook some rare red meat.  So now, all that was left was to pick out a lamb recipe.

The cookbook I had collected?  It had exactly one.  One lamb recipe.

...and it was perfect.  As suggested by the first book, it was for lamb chops.  And the sauce?  Black currant.  One of my all-time favorite flavors.  It was a flavor combo I could get behind.

For that first meaty meal I ever cooked, I went all out.

Black Currant Lamb on a bed of Cous Cous
Stuffed Mushrooms with Chevre and Walnuts
...and a green salad.

For me?  I made a batch of the lamb without the lamb.  I made it with Morningstar Farms Grillers Original.

...and it may have been one of the best things I have ever tasted in my entire life.

...and that is what I decided to cook for the assembled masses for our seder.  For pretty much the same reasons.  It was easy, it was fast, and it would be delicious and memorable.  Seriously, the hardest part of this recipe is simply waiting for the sauce to thicken.

I made some changes to the original recipe that I worked from.  And now, all of you can enjoy this delicious dish for yourselves.  Meat eaters and vegetarians alike.  (Sadly, Grillers are not vegan.  I have yet to find a vegan fake-meat patty that I find palatable.  I freakin' hate Boca.)


Someday, my house will be surrounded by
black currant bushes.
Black Currant Lamb (Or Not-Lamb)
6 Lamb Chops, trimmed cautiously of fat (or 8 Grillers Original, halved and thawed)
1 tbsp vegetable oil (plus 1tbsp margarine for the Grillers)
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 oz Black Currant Preserves (best if it contains whole black currants)
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar (plus 1 tsp of black currant balsamic, if you can get it)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4c Merlot (In my opinion, a grape fit only for cooking- I prefer never to drink Merlot if I can help it.  I'm a Malbec snob.)
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped roughly

If cooking lamb, in a nice wide saucepan, heat the oil over med. high heat.  Place the lamb chops in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until browned.  Remove and set aside, but reserve drippings with oil in the pan.

If cooking Grillers, melt the margarine into the oil.

Cook the onions until just translucent.  Add the preserves, the wine, the pepper, and the vinegar.  Stir gently over med heat until thickened.  And I do mean thickened.  It might take a while, but I promise you that sauce will thicken up.  As the sauce begins to thicken properly, add the mint.  You will immediately be transported to your favorite happy place by the smell that results.

Return lamb (or place not-lamb) to the pan, in the sauce.  Cook for two minutes on each side (slightly more for the Grillers- let 'em soak up some of that sauce).

Serves 6.

Seriously, that easy.

I recommend serving it with brown rice.

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