Friday, September 13, 2013

A Blogger Challenge #covertocover13 #bittenword #bonappetit

After discovering The Bitten Word last year while searching the web on how to can tomatoes. (Their video is CLASSIC) I never canned the tomatoes, but did become and ardent "Bitten" and when tZach and Clay announced their "2013 Cover to Cover Challenge" (cooking the entire September issue of Bon Appetit) I signed up faster than you could say, "Cook a complicated dish on the same holiday weekend that Shea and Tommy are getting married in front of 300 people".

What can I say?  I am an overachiever.... or insane.  Maybe a little of both.

This year, hundreds of "bittens" signed up to cook for the challenge. I was assigned Lamb Tatare.  Well, there were some rules (finish by 9/6 and try to stick to the recipe); so, I ended up having to "cook" my dish on Labor Day, and no one in the house will eat raw meat, and since my transplant, raw meat and raw eggs are off the menu, I made the tartare by the rules and then add a twist ending so that we could all eat it.

Gathering and assembling the ingredients was pretty straight forward:  grocery shopping in two states, - I found preserved lemons at Fairway Market in Queens, and then bought some amazing lamb loin at Whole Foods in Fairfeild, CT; my knife roll packed in the trunk, and we didn't speak of having to buy two copies of the September issue of Bon Appetit (one in NYC and one for CT after I left the first copy on the bedside table in NYC). 

For pairing, I already had a bottle of 2008 Lenz Cuvee sparkling wine from the Lenz Winery on the North Fork of Long Island (in my opinion, the best sparkling wine produced on the East Coast).

Here is how it went:

"Cooking" a tartare is just chopping really good ingredients.  My master plan was to cook it (using heat) then, after I made the raw dish per Bon Appetit, I was going to make a cooked dish.  I kept my lamb trimmings, and started a base of Greek meat sauce:  Tomato, lemon, salt & pepper, onions, olive oil and cinnamon; as I trimmed, I threw in the lamb bones and scraps.  Soon the whole house was smelling AMAZING.

I opened a  bottle of Corona, and started chopping:  shallots, capers from the cupboard, and preserved lemon, the meat was chilling in the freezer. I even had a little mint plant that I was able to harvest some leaves from to add to the mix. 

The spices were straight forward, fresh ground pepper.  I used peppercorn that V brought home from Istanbul, so I felt VERY exotic!

I tossed the ingredients with some healthy glugs of olive oil, cracked a fresh egg, strained the the whites away so that the yellow yolk could nest in the meat, and I sprinkled the whole bowl with Cypriot salt flakes.

It all went together really easily, and soon enough, with the meat sauce bubbling away, I was making toast from the baguette and styling my photograph for the Bitten Word to publish. The flavors were amazing.

But that was only the beginning.

As soon as I tried a bite of the tartare (it was delicious) I pulled the toast, soaked it in some milk, transferred the tartar to a big mixing bowl, and started to make meatballs.

The first meatballs, I served as a Tapas, with a side of green beans.  Then I set about making the Best. Shepherds. Pie. Ever.  I was serving and Irish/Mexican household, and it was a hit.  I added some pan roasted grape tomatoes for color, and I piped the rich mashed potatoes for a fancy finish, and we all dug in and loved it.  I'll make this combination of flavors over and over in the next few years.  It really was that good.

Slideshow from Lenz Winery:

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