That glazed look

We like eating together as a family; there’s something about sharing food together on a regular basis, something I want to encourage within my family, something I want to encourage within all families.

Particularly in winter, we try and have a roast meal every now and then. But we’re not legalistic about it, we are quite capable of having a roast in the summer as well. More often than not, the meat du jour is chicken, we don’t have a great deal of red meat at home. Similarly, more often than not, the roast is had on a Sunday, after church, the traditional “Sunday roast” lunch.

All this changed some months ago, when the church we belong to (www.kcionline.org) began to have two services in the morning, at 9.30 and at 11.30; there’s always someone in the family involved in something in the “second service”, so it has meant that the Sunday roast became less frequent.

So we adapted. We felt like a roast. And so we had a roast. Today. Saturday. As an evening meal. My wife and I both like rack of lamb, so I thought I’d augment the chicken and vegetables (that she was preparing) with some glazed lamb; we have some house guests staying with us at present; this way we didn’t have to cook a ginormous chicken, something I didn’t really want to do.

Today I decided I’d try the honey-and-mustard-glaze treatment with some fresh lamb. I used the epicurious recipe as a starter, varying it only where I felt it was absolutely necessary. What did I vary? I dropped the canned beef broth and went for fresh beef gravy instead; did the same with the canned chicken broth, went for fresh chicken gravy instead; chopped small plum tomatoes instead of using the tomato paste; reduced the all-purpose flour quantities, raised the honey and mustard quantities. But in essence I stayed with the recipe, my variants were not material.

How was it? Well, take a look for yourself:

Glazed roasts are enjoyable only when the glaze really “catches”, so I was keen to get the honey and mustard to a crisp golden level. I’ve done it before, just not with honey and mustard, so I was patient enough with the basting, I had faith that the goldening would occur. And it did.

Especially with rack of lamb, I try and keep the fleshy part of the chop as pink as I can get away with, crisping the edges as much as possible. It means basting regularly during the roasting, every five minutes or so during the entire 35-minute session.

This is what the end-product looked like. Honey-and-mustard glazed rack of lamb with roast parsnips and potatoes, steamed carrots and fine green beans. It’s quite easy to do: the entire meal took about an hour to prepare and serve.

Prior to this, I’ve tended to use fruit-based glazes: apricot, quince, plum, that sort of thing. After today’s experience, I’m probably going to stay with “thinner” glazes, they take less time, they’re easier to manage and they’re probably better for me as well.

As with most things I’m interested in, when it comes to cooking I’m a passionate amateur. So I’d love to learn more from you. What have you learnt? Where do you go for your recipes? Are there handed-down-dor-generation recipes you’re prepared to share with us? Are there specific blogs you find interesting and useful in this respect?

Comments and advice welcome. In the meantime I hope I’ve been of some help. I’d also like comments on this post as well… what worked for you, what didn’t.

14 thoughts on “That glazed look”

  1. I am aware that not everyone has as sweet a tooth as me but Ice Cream is one of my all time favourite foods. And some of the best ice cream in the world comes from Dingle in West Kerry. Check out http://icecreamireland.com/ for a pair of brothers who love ice cream, Ireland and just living life to the full. Great food and great blogging.

  2. Salivating here. My wife hates lamb, so I have been dreaming of a a home-roasted rack for a long time, but I’m afraid it’s not going to happen. Congratulations on a great piece of meat! Being italian, I can’t really think of lamb without any garlic and rosemary, but yours definitely looks gorgeous nevertheless.

    If I manage to convince my wife to give it a shot, though, I might want to try low temperature roasting instead: my best roast ever has been a whole leg of pork left to cook for 18 hours at 70°C. Made for a great dinner party of 25 people!

  3. Thanks for the link, David, I love the Cork and Kerry area (even vacationed in Allihies of all places) and am a big fan of Richard Corrigan’s cooking; I don’t have as much ice cream as I would like to have, but that’s probably a good thing. At my age the sorbet is a wiser choice, so I’m glad to see that the brothers do sorbets as well.

  4. Don’t worry, Gianugo, there’s a healthy dose of rosemary in the recipe for the sauce, so all is not lost. I was generous with that, just by interpreting the recipe strictly. Quite enjoyed making the sauce, actually.

  5. My strategy is to source the ingredients carefully then do as little as possible to them. Good ingredients make good food or ur doin it wrong.

    What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?

  6. Dom, I can’t agree. Of course good ingredients make good food. But doing as little as possible to them? Does not follow. You might as well say that all food should be eaten raw. There are many interesting arguments and discussions about cooking and nutrition, big post to follow.

  7. I found 3 things really improved my cooking.

    1. Practice. Seems obvious but we often expect to be good at something before we’ve had the necessary practice or even if we haven’t practiced recently.

    2. Reading. Two favourites for me are Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook and Heat by Bill Buford. Both teach about food in ways that I was able to incorporate into my cooking and own approach to food. And both are a joy to read.

    3. Some science. In particular, understanding that all food is composed in some portion of water and in almost all cooking processes water is a major influencer of outcome. Things are too wet or too dry.

    In particular, with lamb glazing and caramelization, understanding the Maillard Reaction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maillard_reaction – especially the ‘Factors’ section) and how it’s influenced by water was key for me to understanding why some attempts worked while others didn’t and how to tweak recipes to get the outcome I wanted.

    More science? Here’s a good intro to the chemistry approach to cooking: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.06/cooking.html

  8. I wasn’t proposing raw food :-) Just that some recipe steps appear to be about mere presentation rather than flavour – for me, life is too short for that.

    To get wine that is 10% better you have to pay twice the price. To get chips that are 10% better you have to dry them and freeze them three times during the many cooking steps (according to dear Heston).

    In some ways this produces a chip that is less enjoyable since it becomes an object of veneration and awe rather than tasty food. I wouldn’t want my host to have gone to such lengths on my behalf.

  9. Dom, most often I spend real time on the flavour. If I cook Indian or Mexican it takes me four or five hours (part of it the previous night) because I start with fresh ingredients.

    But presentation also matters, as long as we keep the ratios right. For example I once had a leek and potato soup that was served in two colours, amazing to look at; the leek soup and the potato soup were prepared separately, reduced to the same relative density and then carefully poured into the dish at the same time, to create a wonderful effect.

    In cooking as in everything else, time is money. So we should spend proportionately more time on the engine, the food, rather than the waiting room, the presentation.

  10. This is making me hungry. And I intended no specific criticism of the lamb dish which looks very tasty.

    On the subject of starting the previous night – yes! There’s something about some sauces that have been allowed to go cold then reheated. Leftover chili or (peasant’s) bolognese is always better the next day.

  11. JP, your dish looks very good, in fact, I hope you don’t mind but I will adopt some of your methods for my next roast. In fact, I use a smilar glaze technique for parsnips and carrots which is always well recieved by guests. A mixture of honey with soya finished off with fresh parsley works a treat.

  12. Just like reading widely enables better writing, I think eating good food regularly enables better cooking.

    I primarily cook from tastes that linger on the memory of my tongue. I can then look through my enormous spice cupboard for the right ingredients and there may be ‘mistakes’ once or twice, but I usually get it right.

    I am also a cook by approximation – no measuring spoons or cups work for me.

    More than what I use for help is what I do not use for help. For Indian cooking, I avoid both Madhur Jaffrey and Atul Kochhar like the plague. She puts her entire spice cupboard into everything and he is too much into experimentation.

    But Vatch Bhumichitr’s Thai cooking book is fabulous. As well as being a travelogue it is a cultural journey to understand Thai food. Ace!

    For French cooking, Raymond Blanc is my reliable source. Simple, illustrated steps although one digression from the measurements and a disaster results.

    I do not refer to books whilst I cook but a bit like an exam, finish my cramming and prep beforehand.

    Your food posts really get my interest :-) That is not to say other things you write don’t..

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