Quoth Brian’s mom, as we finished dinner: “This goes on my list of OK.” Which I promise is not the damnation via faint praise it sounds like.
Since I crapped out on my own foodie event by failing to smack anything down while in North Carolina last week, I thought we’d make up for it this week (and capitalize on the lovely weather we’re having right now) by turning to the grill.
We have a copy of Bobby Flay’s Boy Meets Grill, acquired Soup Bible-style from a Barnes and Noble discount endcap. Mock Bobby Flay all you want – lord knows I do; that man is a toolbox if ever there was one – but he sure knows how to Tex-Mex-Mesa-Grillify any ingredient around and do it well.* We decided to go with lamb tacos with tomato-mint relish, which seemed like a fun take on a very stodgy and traditional pairing, and a side of tarragon-lime corn niblets.**
*Exhibit A: Every episode of Iron Chef America EVER PRODUCED.
I initially thought this was maybe a little arty looking. Turns out, it’s just kinda shitty.
I’d ordered a lamb loin roast from Fresh Direct, so I didn’t have precise control over the amount of lamb I’d purchased. The loin ended up being just over two pounds, which would have been dangerous for two people given the inflexibility of the Taco Rule.* ** So we called Brian’s parents to see if they were up for tacos, tossed the marinade together (a simple mojo-esque mix of orange juice, olive oil, garlic, onion, chipotles and ancho) and packed up the lamb for the drive.***
*Taco Rule: When tacos are prepared, one must continue to eat until all the filling and fixings are gone. Originally developed to apply only to ground beef Old El Paso-style taco dinners, later expanded to cover other types of tacos, fajitas, and other tortilla-wrapped foods.
**Yes, I know I could have just cut it in pieces and stashed some in the freezer but what fun is that?
***More asides than real paragraphs! Being on vacation is starting to make me loopy.
This also looks kinda shitty, but in a different way entirely.
I’d failed to read the instructions all the way through, as I am wont to do, so Brian had to point out to me that the marinade ingredients were meant to be blended and not just roughly chopped. Even though I knew and liked all the components and was sure it would taste good in the end, the result of pureeing onion, OJ and chipotles in adobo creates a substance that is highly offensive in both color and texture. I don’t want to say baby vomit, but it totally looked like baby vomit. A baby who’d just eaten some smoked salmon and boiled potato baby food from the IKEA food shop.
Luckily, once the lamb was coated in its grisly bath of excreta we could ignore it and deal with more photogenic foodstuffs.
Redemption! I stared at the pretty colors until I started to feel less queasy.
The tomato-mint relish was a quick, salsa-ish affair that required little more than chopping. We just got more tomatoes from our CSA, so I used one red and one stripy green and yellow heirloom along with some red onion, fresh mint, cracked black pepper, a home-grown jalapeño and some olive oil and balsamic.
You can call it “relish” all you want, but I know a salsa when I see a salsa. You don’t fool me, Bobby Flay.
I gave the veggies a quick toss and left them to sit in the refrigerator and meld into a happy family while we cooked off the lamb and started the corn. Which brings us to…
DOG INTERLUDE 1:
Chester J. Lampwick. Don’t talk in high-pitched baby talk to him. He is VERY SERIOUS. If he were a person, he would be your literal-minded accountant friend who never gets your sarcasm.
No, this has nothing to do with dinner. Yes, I’m only including it because my dogs are really fucking adorable and this is my blog and I can do what I want. I mean, come on, look at the punim on that one. Oy.
Okay, maybe I should have used a slightly larger pot. But the water was already boiling by this point, and you know what that makes me say.*
We’d also gotten some wonderfully sweet, bicolor local corn; I’m pretty sure it was Long Island corn and not Jersey corn, but I try not to hold that against it. Once Brian was done wrestling with the husks – I believe he declared at one point that the cobs were “unshuckable” – I plopped them in some boiling water for a five-minute pre cook before they headed out to the grill.
They spend another 5 or 10 minutes on the grill, cooking through and getting some nice grill marks. I was going to let them rest before cutting the kernels off the cobs, but Brian insists that he has no nerves in his fingers despite the fact that I’d just watched him burn his hands roughly 17 bajillion times turning hot corn on the grill so he did it immediately.
There were still a few more steps to finishing off the corn, but I couldn’t help sneaking hunks of kernels out of the bowl as it sat on the counter – it was the kind of corn that’s delicious enough to eat raw. I make a giant mess when I cook and somehow managed to get a not insubstantial amount of corn on the floor, and I’m fairly sure Brian’s parents’ dogs agreed with me re: the corn quality.
I LOVE THE GRILL. THANK YOU, INDIAN SUMMER.
Meanwhile, the marinated lamb loin was working away on the grill, making the whole backyard smell like happiness. While the marinade wasn’t used as a sauce or for basting, the meat retained a little of the sad sickly peach color instead of turning a more appetizing mahogany, but the gorgeous aroma more than made up for it. During the last few minutes, some rounds of red onion got a turn over the coals as well.
Using the time-honored method of cutting a piece open with a steak knife to check, Brian expertly determined when the lamb had reached a perfect state of medium rare. He removed it from the grill and let it sit to finish cooking and re-distribute the juices while I got the taco accessories ready.
The well-accessorized taco is always a thing of beauty.
Brian’s grandma started setting the table and got herself set up at her place with her glass of juice, medications and the CBS Nightly News with Katie Couric before we realized that we’d again failed to read the recipe all the way through and still had one more step to go: assembling the tacos, brushing them with oil and grilling them. Which to my mind sounds like a grilled quesadilla, although I’m certainly no Iron Chef. (If I were, I’d be Iron Chef Bacon.)
Into flour tortilla went monterey jack, slices of perfectly medium lamb, fresh mint and grilled red onion.
The aforementioned niblets.
While Brian grilled the “tacos,” I finished off the corn: some brown butter, the juice of a lime, black pepper and fresh tarragon, tossed with the corn and salted to taste.
DOG INTERLUDE 2:
Felix P. Hoenikker. He wants you to know that he is VERY FRIENDLY. Would it be alright with you if he licked the top layer of your facial epidermis clean off? Out of love, obviously. Nothing would make him happier.
I can’t really put up one and not the other, can I?
Yes, they have full names. They need full names so we have something to yell when they’re being especially evil demonic uncontrollable mischievous; it really makes us feel like we’re disciplining them and that we’ve accomplished something.
Yes, it’s the same photo as above. Out of all the plate shots, this was the only one I really liked. Deal.
Lamb “tacos” with tomato-mint relish and lime-tarragon corn niblets made a pretty plate but got mixed reviews.
First there was Grandma Ruth, who upon hearing that dinner would be lamb tacos announced, “Well, it sounds half good.” That is, the lamb half, which she claims is the best lamb she’d ever eaten in her life EVER and which she wants for all future birthday dinners.* She was also heard to bemoan the lack of multiple courses, because I’m pretty sure that she thinks every night at our house is like an evening at Alinea.
Then there was me: I loved the tacos; the lamb was nicely flavored but not overpoweringly garlicky or spicy, and it was meltingly tender. Grilled onion mixed with the melty cheese is a pretty unbeatable combo. I enjoyed the bright note of mint, and wished I’d been a little more heavy-handed with it. The relish I was less sure about; I felt like the balsamic was a little too much and would have preferred something simpler. The corn, sadly, was a no-go: I loved the concept, but really couldn’t cope with the tarragon. I found the sweet corn + sweet butter + sweet anise-y tarragon to be overly, well, sweet. I mean, I ate it, but I’d play with the herb choice in the future.
Brian’s mom loved the taco and the relish, but was with me on the corn. I think. It’s hard to tell, because like me she kept eating it. Damn tasty local corn.
Finally, Brian and his dad were all over everything. Brian was an especial fan of the corn; not surprising because he loves anise and licorice.
There was leftover lamb which we of course left for Grandma, who will doubtless eat 0.25 of an ounce of it on a slice of rye bread for lunch tomorrow and pronounce it the Best Sandwich in the History of Sandwiches, god love her.
*Grain of Salt Warning: Grandma Ruth was once overheard calling a meal at the local Chinese buffet “orgasmic.” I LOVE HER.