Friday, February 19, 2010

Lamb Chops, Cauliflower & Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears w/ Goat Cheese

*Post by Mark.
Angela can be a busy young lady. When she's not working, marathon training, sleep-walking (oh, you have NO idea), or keeping up with an intense weekly DVR regiment (apparently Bones is 'must-watch TV'), she's usually cooking some extravagant meal for this guy's exclusive benefit. Now, I'm no stranger to the kitchen, but I usually step aside when it comes to the kitchen... no, I literally step aside. The kitchen comfortably fits 1/2 a normal sized person, which means it fits one Angela comfortably (Also, she's a total control-freak).

With her upcoming birthday and a strenuous recent workload and my fear of gradually becoming an easily replaceable component in this relationship, I decided tonight would be a good opportunity to nudge her aside, squeeze into the close-but-foreign quarters of the kitchen and make myself useful. Perhaps my apron-wearing hiatus made me antsy to push my culinary ventures, or perhaps I had a lot of reciprocating to do, but I settled on a menu that given my talents limitations, may have been a little... ambitious.

Click READ MORE to see what Mark cooked for Angela.

Sliced Pears Wrapped in Prosciutto with Goat Cheese and Arugula
I decided to start with a light appetizer. Rather than do a salad, I settled on a little hors d'oeuvre. I love a one-bite course that can combine a meat, a cheese AND a fruit. To begin, I cored two Anjou Pears (leaving me with 16 total wedges) and tossed them with lemon juice (the acidic juice keeps the sliced fruit from browning).

The great thing about this dish is that the complexity of flavor and texture layered into each bite is achieved with minimal effort. Once your pear is cored, the prosciutto, Goat Cheese (yes, I always capitalize Goat Cheese. It's the deity of dairy products) and arugula require zero preparation. Simply lay out a strip of prosciutto, place a pear wedge on it, then add a hunk of Goat Cheese and about two or three small arugula leaves.

Once you've got all the pieces in place, the wrapping is a cinch, concluded with a toothpick to pin it all together.

The result is a colorful and impressive little dish that tastes even better than it looks. Both Angela and I tore through these like hungry velociraptors devouring a small, helpless child.

Braised Cauliflower with Parsley & Bread Crumbs
As a side to the main course, I settled on cauliflower. It's typically a vegetable Angela overlooks. My meal? My vegetable. I used an entire head, cutting it into florets and set that aside.

To top off the vegetable, I'd be concocting a bread crumb mixture, so I started by cramming a baguette into a food processor.

Once the bread had been broken down into small enough pieces, I scattered them out on a tinfoil-wrapped (rimmed) baking sheet and covered the bits with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I baked them at 400 for 6-7 minutes until they became golden and crispy.  In the meantime, I was busy chopping up about 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley and spooning out about 2 tablespoons worth of capers.

Next, I shattered the jar full of capers on the floor. To do this, you'll have to precariously return the jar to an unsecured position on the refrigerator door (preferably the top shelf where you usually put margarine) so in a few moments when you give the door a good yank, the tall jar will undoubtedly fall and smash, causing you to overcook the bread crumbs while you try to collect shards of glass from the floor...

When I was finally able to remove the fully-cooked pieces of baguette, I combined it with the parsley and capers and set it aside.

To cook the cauliflower, I warmed a tablespoon of olive oil and about 1/3 cup of water in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil started to sizzle I added the cauliflower florets and covered, cooking (and occasionally stirring) for about 8 minutes. 

When they were finished, I plated them and sprinkled the bread crumb, parsley, caper mixture generously over the top.

Roasted Lamb Chops
Now for the main course. I've never cooked lamb before, and rarely even eat it, so I took a simple approach for my first efforts. First I seasoned 4 shoulder blade chops with 1 teaspoon paprika and about 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and pepper each.

Once the seasonings were all rubbed into the meat, I heated a tablespoon olive oil and some diced shallots for flavoring in a large frying pan. 

I browned each lamb chop for about 2 minutes per side and then transfered them to a baking sheet cooking at 400 degrees in the oven. 

After about 10 minutes in the oven they were cooked to a nice medium rare.

I plated the cauliflower and lamb chops together and Angela seemed a big fan. The lamb chops were rich with a nice subtle seasoning. They were cooked nicely throughout, so we can only chalk that up to beginners luck. She also declared that she was now officially a big fan of cauliflower, but I think I could do better than the bread crumb topping.


Sure, everything sounds fantastic, but there was one glaring problem with this dinner. Now that I'm 1/1 on successful meals, something might actually be expected from me...

Angela's take: I didn't just like dinner.  I loved it.  I will admit, even though I had faith Mark would do just fine in the kitchen, I was itching to get in there with him and "help out."  He didn't need it.  In fact, dinner was so good, I'm a little worried that now I'm replaceable.  That being said, I cannot wait for the next Mark-prepared dinner...

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