Sunday, May 22, 2011
A fire in her belly
(CNN) – "Sarah Palin has given few indications in recent weeks she is still actively considering a presidential run, but the former Alaska governor said Thursday she has the “fire in my belly” to mount a bid for the White House."
If I could communicate directly with Ms. Palin, I would recommend that she try extra strength Zantac. Works for me, every time. I would also tell her to take a page from Mike Huckabee's book, recognize that you've got a good gig going on over at Fox, and don't jeopardize it by making a run for the White House. There is no way your family can be shielded from the media vampires, and it can only get uglier. And let's face it, you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer. If you couldn't answer Katie Couric's question about what newspapers you read, it is doubtful you could set forth a clear plan for America that wouldn't send the Democrats and the media into hysterical laughter.
Ms. Palin, you are no Hillary Clinton, and even that brilliant lady could not get elected. This country is still not ready for a female President, but if the time ever comes (and I hope I get to see it in my lifetime), you are not going to be anyone's first or last choice.
I am struggling with lamb chops. I'm not sure why this is so. I love lamb in just about any form, and any cut. I know that a lot of folks don't like lamb, because they find it strong-tasting or gamy. But I grew up eating prodigious amounts of lamb chops, so for me it is one of the most natural tastes in the world, like liver, herring, lox, smoked whitefish, tongue, and kasha. For people who keep kosher - which did not include my family, by the way - lamb is Jewish pork. Sort of. It was a welcome respite from brisket, chicken, and ground beef. Never mind that my mother also cooked pork spareribs with her marvelous sauce, fried fish with crispy onions, steaks as big as your head, the best cabbage soup in the world, and spaghetti with a meat sauce so good I would eat it without the spaghetti. Lamb chops were always welcome for dinner.
We always ate shoulder lamb chops with the long bone, and they were always prepared the same way: sprinkled with a little garlic powder, and then broiled. And to tell you the truth, that is exactly the way I have cooked them for the past 40 years. Like a good steak, they are simply perfect that way. But unlike my mother, I've branched out, and moved into ovine exotica like my mother-in-law's lamb shanks (she also served lamb tongue) and leg of lamb stabbed and then stuffed with enough garlic cloves to ward off the entire vampire population of Transylvania, Romania. I am not at all embarrassed to admit that I enjoy neon green mint jelly with my leg of lamb. In fine restaurants, I've been able to sample rack of lamb so sweet and so tender, it is worth the sticker shock. Many restaurants coat the racks of lamb with a little mustard or other flavorful goop, then press bread crumbs against them, and finish in the oven. This is really good eats.
After preparing the country-style lamb "ribs" the other night, I was really surprised at how crazy my boys were over them. They actually preferred them to the beef ribs, and loved the use of the mustard-based sauce. Well, slap my face and call me Sally! As I pulled two packages of lamb chops from the freezer today, I realized I had to do something new ... something different ... something daring ... just something with those lamb chops. Therein lies the source of my struggle.
Almost nobody seems to do anything different with shoulder lamb chops. Broiling and grilling are still the top choices, and for flavor infusion, the recipes I've seen rely on marinades which feature a lot of garlic, lemon juice, and oregano. Very delicious, very Mediterranean, very uninspiring for the purposes of my project. Steven Raichlen "America's master griller" has some very interesting recipes in his book Ribs Ribs Ribs, but as you can imagine, his lamb recipes are all about ribs, and neither Denver lamb ribs, or lamb riblets have made an appearance in my grocer's meat case. Apparently, Denver ribs are from a trimmed lamb breast, but I haven't seen lamb breast since I moved from New York 20 years ago, and when I could get it, it was very fatty. I guess that means it was untrimmed. But the ribs weren't all that meaty, and I was never able to make a really great meal out of them.
After some online and offline research, I decided to bake, rather than grill the chops. I wanted the flavor infusion to come from a dry rub rather than a ho-hum marinade. Of course it was virtually impossible to find a recipe for dry rub for lamb, so I invented one. Don't know if the rub is good, because the chops are now sitting in the refrigerator after being patted dry and won't be cooked until much later today. I did find a recipe for lamb chops which featured as a side dish "minted apples" and the ingredient list includes neon green mint jelly. I can't wait.
Now that I've got that decided, what the heck should I do with the chicken drumsticks I defrosted? Jerk! (No, not you ... the seasoning!) And mussels! Garlicky, winy, savory mussels! Got it. The menu is in my head; now I've just got to get off my butt and get started.
And it was good ... click on the links for the recipes for Baked Lamb Chops with Minted Apples and Oven Roasted O'Brien Potatoes and for Jamaican Jolt Chicken Drumsticks with Mussels.
If you should try one of the recipes, please let me know how it came out and if you enjoyed it.