It’s coming, in this hemisphere at least. Autumn. I just returned from Australia last week. Life was trembling on the branches. We ate rhubarb & freshly shelled peas. Even broad beans. I wandered in gardens, and arugula flowers bloomed. It was cold and gray. But the produce and shivering buds on the trees gave it away: spring. The last day there was sun. Such sun. Metaphysical sun. I cycled around the Sydney harbor & sucked oysters out of their shells in the park. But then I flew and flew away from spring and back to muscadines and gourds and picking tart, firm apples alone in the orchards of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To roasted meats and before I know it smoke, leaves aflame, and that particular razor blue of a clear, autumnal sky.
Leaving spring was hard. Leaving Australia was hard, harder than I could have ever imagined it being. I thank god for being too busy to cry (or too stubborn). I cried for a moment, just one, on the plane. And Rebekka, half asleep next to me, peered from out her eye mask and asked sweetly Are you ok? I did the thing, the thing where you pretend you aren’t crying and that was the end of it. I like to let sadness wash over me in one acute wave and then never think of it again. I find that if I let it pierce me, if only for a few seconds, it leaves. Lightness returns and good work consumes me again. Good work like finding something simple & lovely to do with fresh, local lamb from the butcher shop here in Chattanooga, Main St. Meats.
It’s strongly flavored meat, and I like to pair it with classic mint, the perfume of coriander seed, and anise scented fennel. Throw in a nice wine like this Blend 175, a Cabernet & Syrah blend by Bridlewood Estate Winery (I developed this recipe specifically to pair with this wine) for those who imbibe and you have a meal that’s easy enough for a weeknight but elegant enough for company. The meat is strong enough to stand up to the bold flavors, and the herbaceous notes & spice are organic with the grassy lamb and perfect for the time of year when the weather quietly begins to cool. It would make a great Thanksgiving alternative to The Turkey.
I’ve been thinking about meat a lot lately. I eat it infrequently, mostly saving it for company. But I like raw meat, the primal feeling I get when I’m handling it. The fleshiness. The sacrifice. I respect it. And I want every dish I create out of the life of an animal to do it justice. I always love a simple roast. It keeps me from fiddling with something when I have company. You just settle it in the oven after a screamingly hot sear for a brown crust. For the maillard reaction (which is not caramelization—that’s sugar—and is a very interesting phenomena.) It’s not unlike love, really, the maillard reaction. Though most things aren’t unlike love in the end.
When amino acids and sugar come together in a hot, dry place a thing happens that we all like very much. Browning. Bread crust, seared meat, roasted coffee, jammy onions. This is the alchemy of the savory. The more alkaline the food, the more it browns. Hence why baking soda (bicarbonate) promotes browning in baked goods. The point is you want this. It’s good. Humans have cultivated it in the culinary arts long before we could ever name it. It’s a fundamental craving. And that’s why searing meat before roasting is never a step to skip. It builds deep flavor, complexity. It makes your meat robust.
To get a good sear, dry your meat. The drier the better. Use a hot pan. A very hot pan. A little bit of oil, one with a high smoking point. I usually go for grapeseed oil. Don’t crowd the pan. You want a sear, not a steam. Too much meat gets steamy. No good. Then the hard part: don’t touch it. Give it a few minutes. When it’s ready, it should release easily. Flip, repeat. That’s when you’re ready to throw your meat into the low & slow, the roasting & braising & what have you. I like to roast my lamb low. I find it results in the most tender, juicy meat, and given that a rack is quite small, it doesn’t take too long.
A few things:
As I have mentioned, in the coming year I’m creating more than recipes and dinners. I’m creating experiences. Workshops, suppers, retreats, and gatherings of all sorts are in the works everywhere from Japan to Australia to Portugal as well as here at home in the States. They’re intended to be immersive experiences that engage all five senses, teach you the skills to bring your creative vision to life, and leave you rejuvenated & inspired on every level. Food, travel, and the creative process will be the heart of each. If you’d like to be on the mailing list to be notified of upcoming events simply fill out the contact form and let me know you’re interested. If you’re interested in any of the retreats abroad I just mentioned, make sure to let me know which one! Contact form can be found in the menu bar at the top of the page.