Thatboy rarely makes meal requests. Usually when I make the meal plan for the week and ask if there's anything he wants on it, he replies with "whatever you make sounds good." Helpful.
So I really take it to heart when he makes a request. Last year I was making a special meal for Thatboy and asked him if there was anything he wanted. He was very specific:
Rack of Lamb
Apparently this was a "I feel homesick" meal, but I didn't know that at the time. It frequently is a holiday meal prepared by his parents (TFIL makes the lamb, TMIL does the polenta and ratatouille.) As is typical for me, I made everything completely different than his family does. And as per usual, he was bowled over. It's nice to be appreciated.
I used to be afraid to make rack of lamb, because of constant comparison to TFIL. Except, TFIL's kitchen skills are deteriorating with age, and I make a mean rack of lamb. Despite my trepidations, Thatboy has never once compared my rack of lamb to his father's. Then again, he could just be smart. I make mine with rosemary and garlic, because it couldn't be easier and I love rosemary with lamb. Served with some mushroom stuffing, this becomes a meal fit for royalty. Or my husband. Same difference.
Rack of Lamb
1 rack of lamb (2-3 ribs per person)
1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic, cut into slivers
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp chopped onion
2 Tbsp chopped celery
2 cups of breadcrumbs.
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1. Preheat oven to 350. Place lamb in pan and rub with olive oil to coat.
2. Rub rosemary into the lamb. Make 4-5 slits in the rack and stick the slivers of garlic in the slits.
3. Melt butter in saucepan and cook onion and celery until tender. Toss with breadcrumbs and mushrooms.
4. Circle the rack of lamb and fill the middle of the circle with stuffing. Cook 1 hour 15 minutes, or until meat is desired doneness.
I love a good polenta. Grits, polenta - I've never met a corn grain I didn't like. TMIL apparently prepares it with water and no other seasoning. Sounds yummy, right? I like mine in a super Italian style, covered in a thick ragu. And by ragu I mean a meat sauce, not the brand of pasta sauce. And just like everything else, cheese is sure to make it even more delicious. This is my favorite way to eat polenta and can very well be a meal in itself.
Cheesy Polenta with Meat Sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp tomato paste
1 1/4 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 carrot, grated
1/2 cup basil, chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1 cup coarse cornmeal
1 Italian sausage, sliced
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 lb cheddar cheese, cubed
1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large saucepan and cook 1/2 of the chopped onion and the garlic for 2 minutes.
2. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, carrot, pepper, and half of the basil. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding water to get desired consistency. Stir in 2 Tbsp butter.
3. Boil 3.5 cups of water and add 1/2 Tbsp salt. Slowly stir in the cornmeal in a thin steady stream. Cook for 20 minutes.
4. Spread polenta into a baking dish and keep warm.
5. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan and cook remaining onions until soft. Add sausage and cook another couple of minutes.
6. Add mushrooms and cook another couple minutes. Add sauce, remaining basil and simmer for 30 minutes, adding water to reach desired consistency.
7. Add last Tbsp of olive oil to sauce.
8. Preheat oven to 350. Dot polenta with cubes of cheese and bake until cheese is melted. Spoon sauce overtop.
My mom used to make ratatouille...I think. Honestly I can't remember, but it sounds like something she would do. I've never been a huge fan which is why I don't remember. And I've never made it before, so I had nothing to base it on. I turned to the pro - Julia Child. This was a little labor intensive, but Thatboy said it was excellent. It was a little oily, and made a ton, so I would probably use as little oil as possible if I made it again.
Ratatouille(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child)
½ lb eggplant
½ lb zucchini
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil, more if needed
½ lb thinly sliced yellow onions
2 sliced green bell peppers
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves mashed garlic
1 lb firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and sliced
3 Tbsp minced parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel the eggplant and cut into slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide.
2. Cut the zucchini like the eggplant. Place both in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes.
3. Drain your eggplant and zucchini slices.
4. Heat the olive oil in a pan and sautée the eggplant and zucchini until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
5. Cook the onions and the peppers in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the garlic.
6. Layer the sliced tomatoes over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
7. Uncover, baste with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost evaporated.
8. Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a heavy pot and sprinkle 1 Tbsp parsley over.
9. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
10. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
11. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
12. Uncover, tip pot and baste with the juices. Cook 15 minutes more, basting several times.