Sunday, March 25, 2007

Morgan Valley Lamb Sirloin

Lamb Sirloin 4

When considering all that Utah has to offer, people typically think about the outdoors. Sure, we have the greatest snow on earth, amazing rock climbing, challenging bike trails, inspiring hiking trails and beautiful national parks, but what they might not know is that we also have some of the best lamb. Lamb? Yeah, that's right, lamb.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. We have some of the most beautiful and prestine landscapes imaginable, and that translates into the perfect place to raise quality lamb. Fortunately, Linda and Jamie Gillmor realized that fact, and have been selling their naturally raised Morgan Valley Lamb since 2001. It can be found in some of Utah's best restaurants and specialty stores, but we are fortunate enough to live a only a quick bicycle ride away from Emigration Market which sells Morgan Valley Lamb.

After recently reading Vanessa Chang's insightful article on Morgan Valley Lamb in Salt Lake Magazine, I was itching to get my hands on some fresh lamb. So, after a day of grueling spring yard work, K and I peddled up to Emigration Market and picked up a lamb sirlion.

Since it was a sunny spring day I figured that the most appropriate way to prepare the lamb sirloin was on the grill. Being the sauce-whore that I am, I also prepared a little brandy/port reduction sauce, but I can tell you that the lamb is so tasty by itself that a sauce is not necessary. Believe me, the lamb sirloin is so succulent and flavorful that all it needs is a big glass of red wine!

Ingredients (serves two, of course):

1 lb. Morgan Valley Super Trim Lamb Sirloin
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary (leaves only)
1 tsp chopped thyme (leaves only)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground pepper

Brandy/Port Sauce-
1/4 cup Brandy
1/4 cup Port
1/2 cup veal stock (chicken or beef will work fine)
1 shallot diced
1 tsp chopped thyme (leaves only)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Roasted Potatoes-
8 fingerling potatoes (any small red or white variety)
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 tsp chopped rosemary (leaves only)
8 grape tomatoes halved
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
dash of Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper


To make the potatoes:
Half or quarter the potatoes so that all pieces are approximately the same size. Mix the potatoes with garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Spread potatoes evenly in aluminum foil with ends folded up to keep oil and potatoes contained. Cook in oven at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until a fork can be effortlessly inserted into a potato. Just before done add tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes (stir into potatoes).

To make the Brandy Port Sauce:
Heat the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and add shallots. Cook shallots for about 5 minutes or until tender and aromatic. Add Brandy and Port and cook until reduced by 3/4 (about 5 minutes). Add stock and simmer until reduced about 3/4. Set aside and keep warm until lamb is ready. If sauce reduces too much add water to bring back to proper consistency (do not use stock or wine to adjust consistency, as it is the water that has evaporated). Strain sauce before spooning over lamb.

To make the Lamb:
Drizzle olive oil over each side of lamb sirloin and sprinkle with salt pepper and rosemary leaves. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about one hour. Heat grill to medium-high. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees for medium rare. Let meat rest for about five minutes before carving. Slice meat against the grain about 1/4 - 1/2 inches thick.

Assemble lamb and potatoes on a plate and spoon warm sauce over meat. Serve with a favorite salad (we used arugula with lemon, olive oil and shaved parmesan) and spicy full-bodied red wine. Bon Appetite.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lugano - James Beard House Preview Dinner

I drive by Lugano nearly every day on my way to work, and yet we've only been there once before. I'm not sure if it is because the location is borderline suburban, or if it is that the locally owned Italian restaurant maintains a low profile. Nonetheless we had enjoyed our first visit years ago, and so I was thrilled when J booked us for their James Beard House preview dinner.

Chef Greg Neville prepared a tasting menu centered around Italy's Veneto region and paired with wines from two wine makers from that region. Representatives from both wineries, Bisol and Le Salette, were at the dinner to speak about their beautiful wines. In our city of nutty liquor laws and limited selection, for a split second, we got to experience that romantic connection between chef and winemaker.

Italian Wine Lover's Dinner - $55 per person, $35 additional per person for wine pairings

Reception Appetizers
Venetian Sole 'in saor' with crispy cipollini onions
Ahi Tuna tartare w/ quartered quail eggs, extra-virgin olive oil, shallots & capers
Warm savory profiteroles filled w/ mushroom duxelles & langoustine

The quail eggs were a sweet treat atop the tartare, and the langoustine was a unique challenge to crack open at a table full of strangers.

Duetto of Carpaccio
Fresh ruby red albacore 'crudo' w/ shaved raw asparagus salad & fresh black truffle vinaigrette
Beef carpaccio w/ dungeness crab remoulade & julienne celeryroot/crab salad

We both like it raw, so we were delighted to see these two uniquely different versions of carpcaccio on the menu. Both were scrumptious. The albacore version tasted garden fresh and light, whereas the beef carpaccio was topped with a bold and richly flavored salad.

Sea Scallops with Beans
Stewed borlotti beans with seared sea scallops and ripasso reduction

The meal's theme was venetian, but with the beans, fennel and olive oil, J found this course to be quite Tuscan. In fact, it brought back memories of dining on a quiet street behind Siena's il Campo. He couldn't get enough, and kindly offered to help me with mine, but with the plump scallop tucked under the thinly shaved fennel, his services were not needed.

Pancetta Wrapped Monkfish
Roasted pancetta wrapped monkfish tail w/parsnip & cannellini bean puree, wild mushroom Valpolicella reduction

It was fun to have the reduction made with the very wine we were drinking with this course: a ruby red from the Veneto region. The smoky pancetta was the perfect blanket for this delectable white fish lounging on a bed of creamy puree.

Short Rib Filled Calamari
Braised short rib-filled calamari 'in umido' with snow peas & lobster risotto

After finishing this opulent course we knew a trip to the gym needed to be in our immediate future. To call it rich would be an understatement.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
Vanilla bean panna cotta with sweet Cartizze aspic and butter cookies

I'm not a real panna cotta fan myself, but of course that didn't keep me from downing the sweet finale to this delicious meal.

It is an honor for a chef to prepare a dinner at the James Beard House, and so this Salt Lake City preview dinner felt like a party of locals celebrating Neville's upcoming jaunt to the Big Apple. Neville and his team's ability to pump out such interesting food for an entire restaurant of people all at the same time was nothing short of tremendous teamwork and focused communication. On Wednesday, March 14, 2007 Neville and his team will recreate this delicious Italian Wine Lover's Dinner at the James Beard House, and in a small way we got to be part of it.

- K

3364 South 2300 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84117

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