Saturday, August 16, 2008

Moon shining up above

I was standing in line at the supermarket waiting to pay for the ingredients for dinner, when I heard a funny cluck and sigh behind me. I turned to look at the man behind me who was studying one of those packages of pre-cooked turkey breast - you know the kind I mean, the ones we all pick up for those last minute dinners, when we're too tired to cook. I think my parents actually survive off of those rotisserie chickens you get at the grocery store or Costco. They're quick, easy, and usually leave leftovers which are great for soups, stocks, and quesadillas.

The man caught my eye, and with a worried look on his brow asked if I thought there was enough to feed 4 adults and 2 children in his turkey breast. Before I could answer he begged that I'd say yes. I reluctantly reassured him, hoping that his family was light eaters, and asked if he was serving anything with the turkey. He sheepishly looked at me as he began unloading the mashed potatoes, bagged salad, and packaged rice from his cart. He quickly began moaning that this wasn't like him - he was the chef of the family, he barbequed every night, but his stepdaughter had shown up with her boyfriend unexpectedly and there just wasn't time to cook.

My heart went out to him at that moment. I'm not quite sure why we feel the need to defend ourselves, but I understand the feeling only too well. Every time I unload my cart I'm self conscious of what other line-waiters think of my choices. Do I have too much processed foods? Are they judging my decision for frozen veggies instead of fresh? Do my snack choices pass muster? But in reality there is no shame in a packaged dinner, the company is always far more important than the food served, and I reassured the man behind me that sitting down to dinner with his family would be far more enjoyable without him having to slave over a barbeque.

He looked at my purchase and his eyes glazed over. I could feel myself getting read behind the ear as he took in the lamb, potatoes, cream, and brussels sprouts. "Is that what you're having for dinner?" I nodded my head as he asked about the lamb.
"It's insanely easy" I told him, thinking of how Reichl describes cooking lamb - it's equally good rare and well done. "It's not different than roast beef or roast chicken, I just throw it in the oven and let the oven do all the work." Just as he was self conscious about his food choices, I find that I am always quick to defend my own. Everything I make is "easy" or "simple" when asked, I play down the hours I spend in the kitchen or the vigilance of watching to make sure the temperature never rises from simmer to boil. I am as equally worried about being judged as the man behind me, for I feel that sometimes making "Fancy" dinners makes people feel I think I'm somehow better than they are - and since I don't think that's true I am quick to make it seem that these meals are thrown together in the blink of an eye, with little more than a spoon and a prayer.

The last recipes in Garlic and Sapphires come together to form a fancy meal - lamb, scalloped potatoes, and brussels sprouts with chocolate cake for dessert. The lamb and potatoes are cooked at the same time, and the brussels sprouts cook as the lamb and potatoes cool. I prepared the batter for the cake while the meat cooked, and threw it in the oven when the brussels sprouts were done. I started preparing dinner around 7:30 and we finished eating close to 11. It was a long night, and the beautiful purple scar on my right wrist will ever serve as a reminder to wear a pot holder when pressing down on potatoes - actually, if that were true I wouldn't have near as many burn scars on my hands/arms/and wrists. But this was the last meal from the book, and I wanted to go out with a bang. I succeeded. The meat was tender and juicy, the potatoes "tasted like cake" according to Thatboy. He wasn't impressed with the brussels sprout - but he doesn't like them all the much to begin with, and actually prefers my standard sautee to the roasting. I forgot to pick up Grand Mariner, so I subbed in some Chambord with the chocolate cake which was moist, crumbly, and ever so rich. Once again, it was frostingless. I'm noticing a trend with Ms. Reichl.

Since this is the last group of recipes from the book I'll leave you with a wrap up. Personally I think each of the recipes were great and something that will definitely be made again, especially for company.
Thatgirl's favorite: risotto
Thatgirl's least favorite: sort of thai noodles
Thatboy's favorite: risotto
Thatboy's least favorite: roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary
  • 1 small leg of lamb, about 6 to 7 lbs, trimmed of all visible fat
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into 6 slivers each
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

  1. Remove the lamb from fridge 1 hour before starting.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350.
  3. Make 8 small slits in the lamb on each side, and place a sliver of garlic and a leaf of rosmary in each slit. Massage the olive oil in the meat, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. If you have a rack, place the lamb on the rack on top of the remaining rosemary and garlic. If you don't simply put the meat on top of the rosemary and garlic in a roasting pan. Cook uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours, or until an instant read-thermometer inserted away from the bone registers 125. Remove the lamb from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Serves 6 to 8.

Each serving has:
Calories 605.5
Total Fat 26.0 g
Total Carbohydrate 0.6 g
Protein 86.3 g

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 pounds small Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices thickly cut bacon, diced

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Put the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet or cookie pan with sides, sprinkle with the olive oil, and toss so that each sprout is coated, Spread the sprouts out so the’ are in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the diced baron.
  3. Cook, turning the sprouts once, for about 20 minutes or until they are very dark and crisp.
  4. Serve at once.
Serves 8-10.
Each serving has:
Calories 99.3
Total Fat 6.2 g
Total Carbohydrate 9.0 g
Protein 4.3 g

Scalloped Potatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic - cut in half
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 4 lbs. potatoes, peeled
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rub two roasting pans with the garlic, then coat the pans thickly with butter.
  2. Heat milk & cream up in a saucepan until almost boiling, season with salt & pepper, remove from heat.
  3. Cut potatoes into rounds and layer them into the garlic & butter coated pan. Pour milk & cream over the potatoes until it comes to the top but doesn't totally cover the potatoes.
  4. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Serves 8.
Each serving has:
Calories 484.7
Total Fat 34.7 g
Total Carbohydrate 37.8 g
Protein 7.7 g

Last Minute Chocolate Cake
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces fine-quality unsweetened chocolate
  • 3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brewed strong black coffee
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the top of a double boiler or in a heavy pan over low heat, combine the chocolate, butter and coffee. Stir constantly until the butter is nearly melted, then remove from the heat and continue stirring until it has completely melted. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. Add the Grand Marnier, sugar, egg and vanilla extract and mix well until smooth.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 8.
Each serving has:

Calories: 302

Total Fat: 18g

Total Carbohydrates: 35g

Protein: 4g


  1. Your version of an easy meal is my version of a full effort. Looks delicious.

  2. great post! I am not that into the brussel sprouts either!

  3. :drooooooooooooooooool:::

    oh my goodnes. leg of lamb is my f-f-f-faaaavorite!

  4. i love that story. so true, isn't it?

    i want to make that whole meal. i'm not even a big lamb fan, but it would please the husband to no end if i made it for him!

  5. I love Ruth. Hope you enjoyed the journey with her.
    Beautiful looking meal. Can't wait to try lamb on my own--can you believe that I never have?

    You should try roasting brussel sprouts with lots of fresh lime juice and dill--my hubby who doesn't like brussel sprouts much even likes them this way. I usually cut them in half before roasting them to get even more flavor in each one.

  6. Looks Amazing! I LOVE lamb and Brussels Sprouts. Unfortunately, the Husband isn't a fan of either. Next time you make this, save the leftovers for me! :)