Woodworking: It's just possible to not only cook it right, but also cook to perfection
It's barbecuing time in Badgerland, and I've recently had luck with recipes from various sources that I'll share with you.
One of the most difficult cuts of meat to get just right is leg of lamb. And by just right I mean medium rare.
If you cook it well done, you might as well sole shoes with it. If you cook it rare it bounces around on your plate like a piece of raw brisket. It's hard enough to get it right in a kitchen oven, even harder in a Weber and charcoal.
Every Easter, we do a boneless leg of lamb in the oven, seasoned on the inside with garlic, herbs, lemon and olive oil, and more often I get it wrong -- too gray one year, too red the next.
But I've been watching the Cook's Illustrated TV series on public television and have been impressed with host Christopher Kimball, who does little more than look nerdy, and his perky assistant Bridget Lancaster.
In fact, I've been so impressed I have subscribed to their magazine, Cook's Illustrated, a compendium of good advice -- and very specific advice -- about cooking it right.
In one of my first issues I ran across a recipe for barbecued boned leg of lamb that you can cook in about 35 minutes!!!!
I was unconvinced but thought what the heck, it's Easter. We can always eat egg salad sandwiches for the next week if it fails.
Here's what you do. You open the boned leg and spread it out, maybe even flatten it a tad with a hammer (like your ma and round steak), but don't tear the flesh.
Then concoct a marinade of your choice. I used olive oil, several cloves of crushed garlic, fresh rosemary minced, grated lemon peel, lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.
Place in fridge for 4-12 hours. Remove and bring to room temperature.
Meanwhile, build a charcoal fire in your Weber or whatever except a Charbroil, which will probably fall apart as mine did after two or three uses.
When the coals are ashy and medium hot, spread out, flesh side down on the grill above the coals.
Broil for about 15 minutes until charred. Flip it over and do the same.
After 15 more minutes, take it off the grill, bring it into the house, cover with foil for half an hour. Put an instant temp thermometer, which should read about 130 degrees.
Slice thinly, leaving each slice with a charred crust, put on platter, pour over any remaining juice and serve.
You'll like it. We served our lamb with mashed parsnips and a green salad.
Another tough cookie is getting a prime rib cooked medium rare all the way through. Cook's again came to the rescue a few weeks ago.
We possessed a four pound boned prime rib roast. Every Christmas I've screwed up earlier roasts so I tried Cook's method.
These people cook such a roast about 300 different ways and come up with the best result.
I always heard that you start such a roast at 450 then quickly bring it down to about 300 and then trust your meat thermometer.
Not so, said the scientific cooks at Cook's.
They found that if you start really hot, once you take the roast out of the oven to rest, the temperature goes up rapidly and you end up with meat that's medium or even well done (shoe soling time again).
So Cook's did this. They cooked the roast from beginning to end at 250 and they ended up with a pinkish exterior.
So the next time around, they salted and peppered the roast and browned it in a cast iron pan until it was a deep brown, then tossed it in the 250 degree oven. I did mine the same way.
In about an hour, it registered about 125-130 at its thickest. I took it out, covered it with foil and let it rest for half an hour.
Lo and behold, the meat was pink all the way through, except for the exterior, which I served to folks at the table who don't like meat. They liked what they ate. I also made a sauce from the cast-iron frying pan drippings.
You'll notice I didn't use my Weber for the latter preparation. That's because it's difficult to control the temperature of such aging rigs.
I used our $900 kitchen oven -- after I had checked the accuracy of its temperature gauge with a thermometer I bought for $1.95. (The $900 range was wrong.)
So what to do with the Weber? Fortunately Ruth and I had just eaten at a Minneapolis artists' gathering catered by the WestWind.
One of the smashingly good hors d'oeuvres prepared by Chef Tony was charcoal broiled asparagus.
I managed a fair approximation by marinating raw trimmed asparagus in a bath of olive oil, grated lemon peel and minced garlic, then threw it on the Weber grill until coals had flecked the green stems with black.
Don't overcook and bon appetit.
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