Grilled Herb Crusted Lamb Rack

Another freezer surprise, a rack of New Zealand lamb!  I have no idea, perhaps Baltimore, where I found these racks.  Occasionally, I do find Australia lamb (not quite the same) but rarely New Zealand.

My herb garden has out done itself this year.  It’s filled with thyme, 2 kinds of sage, basil, cilantro, tarragon, dill, parsley, fennel, oregano, rosemary and God knows what else!  I am so pleased and I know the lamb was 🙂

Some one once said there’s no such thing as too much garlic.  I think it was me 🙂  I really miss those big juicy bulbs of fresh garlic that appear seasonally in the Farmers’ Market in Sens.  Oven roasted with vegetables or meats, those bulbs are delicious.

This herb, garlic and olive oil paste is also good tossed with hot pasta or just spread on a homemade deli sandwich with meat and cheese.

I spread the herb paste on both sides of the rack,  gave it a few pokes with the knife end all over and refrigerated it for about an hour.

While the lamb was resting in the refrigerator, I put together a side of sugar snap peas, shallots and tomatoes.

I love these beans with the tiny pea surprise inside!

Whether a butterflied lamb leg or lamb racks, my favorite way to prepare them is on the grill and I reluctantly have to give kudos to my new, way over-priced Weber.  The Char Broil grill in France works just as well and is less expensive but when I bought two Char Broils here, neither of them worked with the same efficiency!  I was able to return one and just sold the other for $80 and was glad to get it.

Grilled Herb Crusted New Zealand Lamb Rack

1 New Zealand lamb rack or whatever lamb you can find

Salt and black pepper

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

4-5 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 tbsp olive oil

Season the rack with salt and pepper.  Place the herbs and garlic in a food processor and blend.  With the machine running, slowly add the oil until the mixture is a thick paste.

Poke the rack all over with the point of a sharp knife, then spread the herb paste on both sides of the rack.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to it’s maximum temperature, then quickly brown the fat side of the lamb on the hot grill.  Turn off the flame in the center of the grill and place the lamb fat side up in the center.  Turn the outside flames to about 400F, close the lid and cook for 12-15 minutes.







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Shrimp Clemenceau with Lemon Sauce

Last Sunday, we and a few of our wine and food enthusiasts neighbors engaged in a progressive entree (starter) party.  Someone likened the affair to a tapas and wine party as a “movable feast”.   It was; fun, stress-less and we were with people who share the same interests.

The pity is that I was too lazy, too distracted or couldn’t be bothered to take the camera and tripod to the other houses because the food and presentation was stellar!  I’m almost embarrassed to post because the only pictures I have are of my own contribution, and not many of those.  Oh well, I’ll try to be picturesquely descriptive.

We began at the restaurant/art gallery of Trix Render.  Trix, fashion model, painter, chef and quality baker, presented us with parma wrapped melon on skewers accompanied perfectly by a German Eiswein, and generous bowls of garlic scented, chilled watermelon soup.  I began right then to regret the camera folly.

Next stop our house where I made a different shrimp clemenceau than usual.  I think it’s best with mirliton (chayote) squash but there wasn’t any anywhere so I moved on and borrowed some ideas from an old Epicurious edition.  I also topped up this variation with a thyme flavored lemon sauce.   It was good, just different.  The Bailly La Pierre Rose Brut was perfect for the hot, humid weather we have been experiencing.

A short walk up the street brought us to the lovely home of Anne and Bob Lynch.  Anne, retired nurse, past and present antique aficionado, gardener and a much nicer person then I am :D, regaled us with a Caprese salad of home grown tomatoes, garden basil and superior mozzarella.  Anne’s crab cakes were the best I’ve had in decades;  traditional without the heavy fillers that mask the flavor and texture of the crab.  Bob served a crisp, dry white wine, a Malbec and a sparkling rose.

A few minutes walk took us to Main Street, the heart of Honesdale’s historic district, lined on both sides of the street with gorgeous Victorian houses, locally known as “the painted ladies.”  One of the most beautiful “ladies” on Main street is owned by Jeryl and Bayard Denoie.  Their home and garden are so lovely and if you are ever up this way, be sure to book their Airbnb, the epitome of gracious living and dining.  Bayard presented us with tortilla chips topped with guacamole, grilled scallops and salsa.  Wonderful!

Jan Goodwin, who is not a neighbor but a friend to us all, has a magnificent house about 10 miles from town center, neighboring the Delaware river.  We didn’t go out there this time but certainly will for the next event.  Jan is a renown and well traveled journalist.  Jan prepared fresh fruit topped panna cotta with raspberry sauce for our dessert.  My favorite!

The recipe for Shrimp Clemenceau can be found at the link above.

Lemon Sauce

Rind from 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups white wine

2 large shallots, sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 cups cream

1 1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp thyme leaves

1 1/2 t bsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Boil and reduce the rind, wine, shallots and garlic together for 15 minutes.  Add the cream  turmeric and thyme. Continue to boil, reduce and thicken for about another 10 minutes.  Strain the solids from the sauce, whisk in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  May be made a day ahead and reheated.




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Dashi Vegetable Soup

Since I started making dashi stock from scratch, I’d like to eat some everyday.  It’s delicious, so easy to make and so much better than the granules I used in the past.  With the stock as a base, variations are limitless.  A little imagination and at least something in the refrigerator/pantry/freezer and you’re good to go.  Even a pack of ramen noodles cooked in the broth with maybe some chopped scallions is a feast!  Of course I can’t have dashi soup everyday because my husband would most likely suggest we go out for meals and that’s a pretty grim threat around here 🙂  So with that hanging over my head, I make  a meat and potatoes type meal for him (he’s so old school) ; pork chops smothered in onion gravy with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans with shallots.

Then I make dashi soup the next day 😀  I had some sliced pork belly stir fried, boiled quail eggs, daikon, sliced shiitake mushrooms, a cup of uncooked, mixed stirfry vegetables and chopped bok choy conveniently on hand.  I started the dashi by soaking and boiling the kombu while having our morning coffee.

The daikon radish for soup takes at least 45 minutes to boil separately before adding to the nearly finished soup and is only important if you decide to use it as an ingredient in your soup.  It’s really good but so are a lot of things.  Once the ingredients are prepped, they simmer together for about 15-20 minutes.

I have forgiven my donabe and it’s makers for selling a cooking pot that has to be painfully seasoned by boiling rice porridge inside for an excruciating length of time.  I now love my pot and look forward to cooking with it.

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Grilled Chicken, Cumin Grilled Corn and Okra

For a year I have been virtually grill-less; Char Broil gas grill will not heat up enough to grill a steak, 2nd, new Char Broil gas grill will not heat up enough to grill a steak, complained to company who didn’t care and suggested we return the 2nd one, which we did.  Still trying to sell/give away the first one which was almost new.  It’s so bizarre because I have the exact same Char Broil model in France and it fires up hot, hot in 5 minutes.  I think the flaw in the American produced grills lies with the gas regulator that limits the gas pressure in case of leaks or whatever, so you won’t accidentally blow yourself up and sue them, OR the gas we buy locally is adulterated.  Anyway, I wanted to grill!

In preparation, I made up a fresh batch of German inspired Bavarian essence.  Love that it contains dill seeds and other interesting herbs and spices.

I had some almost tiny wings and thighs that I got from a local poultry producer.  It must be the tiny season because they also had tiny eggs, a bit bigger than quail eggs with a normal chicken shell.  This reminded me of the tiny grilled baby chickens on a stick that we had in Beijing, with head 🙂

I mixed the chicken with olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of the essence and let it sit for an hour.  Really, overnight would be best to allow the flavors to penetrate.

I vaguely recalled when all of our barbecuing was done with charcoal, so I pulled out our small domed Weber with misplaced confidence.  Spoiled by the ability to regulate the heat with a twist of the wrist, I resentfully added/removed/added/removed charcoal to the grill.

In the end, some of it was grilled normally and some of it was blackened, “but in a good way” said my husband who once told me that char was good for your health when I objected to his daily breakfast toast burning.  Talking through his hat, I’d say.  😀

Don’t try this at home!  Yearning for okra and unable to find fresh in the markets, I bought frozen okra, thawed it with cold water, dried it off with a paper towel and cooked it as I would fresh okra.  Don’t, it’s not worth it.  The okra slices are huge and I suspect mature.  The texture was spongy and although it didn’t slime, the taste was characterless.  My husband, out of courtesy, tried a spoonful but couldn’t continue, instead tucking into his corn on the cob grilled with cumin butter.  I ate a little more then tossed the okra the next day.  Not interesting.

I guess we didn’t get the memo but it seems that owning a ridiculously expensive Weber gas grill not only improves your grilling but also sends a signal to your neighbors that you are “somebody” OR that you’re a fool.  “Idjits”






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Roasted Duck Leg with Spaghetti Squash

Hudson Valley Foie Gras is a duck farm located in Ferndale, New York, our old stomping ground when we has a house in Youngsville.  It’s amazing they’re still in business because for a while there was wild-eyed, fanatic pressure from some animal rights people because they believed that perhaps the ducks were forced fed (with a funnel) as some are in France, to achieve the large, fat rich liver that is prized for foie gras.  We visited the farm and didn’t see anything but some ducks eating in a sheltered area.  They probably waited until we left 😀  No need, ducks and geese are greedy birds and practically force feed themselves if their intake is not controlled.  Anyway, they raise Moulards,  a cross between Pekin and Muscovy ducks.  They taste like duck but don’t have the same flavor or texture of the French bred Barbary duck.  Of course like any food animal, environment and what they eat determine these characteristics.

Anyway, fresh herbs are back and my herb garden is brimming with the fragrant greens of parsley, cilantro, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, tarragon and bay leaf too!  I love it!  I managed to find some of the worse pearl onions I’ve ever cooked with at the supermarket.  I won’t go into it but Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

I love using the Emile Henry tajine because after browning the duck, herbs and onions on the stove top, it goes seamlessly into the oven with top for perfect roasting.

Today Jessie was “sous chef” and she was pretty good; not once did she knock over the camera or jump up on the counter or whine.  So un-IT of her.  She mostly stared into the refrigerator, looking for cheese 🙂

Our latest food craving is spaghetti squash.  It’s fairly new to me because I never encountered it overseas, although I did see it on food blogs and was interested.

It’s fun and easy to make.  Simply cut the squash into thick rings, salt both sides and allow it to sit for about 20 minutes.  Wipe the salt from the rings with a paper towel, then roast  at 400 F for about 45 minutes.

Gently scrape the strands from the rings with a fork and place inside of a bowl.

Brown some diced pancetta in butter with shallots and garlic, then finally toss in some cubed tomato to warm.  Toss this mixture with the squash.

Just eat this.  Forget about the duck.  I made this meal weeks ago.  Time to move on 😀





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Crispy Fried Pork Belly

I was reminded of this pork belly recipe when I saw a post for it in my “memories” on Facebook.  I just happened to have a relatively lean, skin on, piece in the freezer that I surprisingly found in the local supermarket.

The pork is marinated in a light corn starch batter with a little zing added by garlic chilli sauce.

Whenever I deep fry, I am reminded of Abdoulaye who taught me the paper towel lined colander method of draining the grease from fried food.  I believe he learned this from a woman from Texas.  Odd, my mother always drained grease in a flat, paper towel lined pan, but I believe the Abdoulaye method is superior.

These fried pork belly strips are great with cocktails or just for snacking.  They are best eaten hot because as they cool the skin can become a little chewy.  Serve with a yogurt cucumber sauce for dipping.

Crispy Fried Pork Belly

2 1/2 – 3 lb thick sliced pork belly, cut into strips

1 tbsp grated garlic

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp garlic chilli sauce

1/2 cup corn starch

2 eggs, slightly beaten


Peanut oil

Mix together the garlic, ginger, chilli sauce, cornstarch, eggs and salt, then stir in the pork strips and allow to marinate for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Heat the peanut oil in a large cast iron skillet, then deep fry 1/3 of the pork at a time.  Drain on paper towels and enjoy immediately.





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Road Trip: Au Pied de Cochon Montreal

In June 2010, I read about a restaurant in Montreal, featuring French Canadian cuisine called Au Pied de Cochon.  I was salivating.  At the time I was somewhere in Africa and Montreal was an impossible dream.  A cookbook was mentioned in the article, introduction by Anthony Bourdain, and Amazon was just a click away.  I bought the paperback (called The Album) for $26 because the hardback was over a hundred dollars and I thought that that was too steep.  Now The Album is $145-156 and the hardback is $449.  I left the book in France because many of the recipes include foie gras, fat ducks, local produce and quality condiments.  I must try some of the recipes when I go back in September.

Anyway, Montreal is only 6 hours or so by car and I made reservations for the Hotel du Paris on the Plateau, not far from the restaurant.  This boutique hotel is housed in a 100 year old Victorian.  Our bedroom at the front of the hotel was spacious and featured a terrace (2nd floor left), perfect for sun downers and people watching.

Even off season, reservations for Au Pied de Cochon can be grim.  In fact, we talked to several Canadians who were surprised we had managed it.  Off season or not, the place was jammed, inside and out!

To begin our waitress recommended a Chinese influenced crepe, Cheung Fun, with lobster and foie gras as an entree that we could share.  While waiting we sipped glasses of a pretty good quality Chablis!  I can still taste it!

However,  there was a little “contretemps.”  We were accidentally served as entree a crepe Bretonne stuffed with 3 types of cheeses, potato, spinach and fiddlehead ferns.

We were well into our second, hearty, luscious bites before we looked at each other and said, “Hey, what is this marvelous wrong order”?  Overheard by our waitress, she apologized profusely for the mix up and promised to bring the Cheung Fun out immediately, in the meantime, we could just finish up that entree at no extra charge.  Idiots that we were, we thanked her but told her that we thought the two entrees would be too filling and politely refused her offer.  Sometimes we’re tiresome or the Chablis went to our heads or we’re too old to travel 🙂  We wish we had that crepe now!

While waiting for our main dishes, we admired some of the restaurant’s sophisticated decor.

Although the restaurant setting is casual, don’t let that fool you; the food and wine are at least 2 star Michelin and so are the prices.  Bring lots of money, it’s worth it.

As the sun went down and I lost natural light, my photographs, as always happens in restaurants without a tripod, suffered shaky hand, out of focus and darkened ugliness because, in a false sense of photographic professionalism, I refuse to set the camera to automatic and won’t use the flash.  So the picture of my main course of rare Magret de Canard with Fois Gras looks like this:

You’ll just have to take my word for it, it was delicious!

At the table next to ours, a man ordered a dish called simply Hot Chicken.  It was a layered stack of chicken,  foie gras and peas.  He was very pleased!

My husband ordered the signature dish of the restaurant, Canard en Conserve or Duck in a can.

The chef cans the dish himself with foie gras, a 1/2 duck breast, a balsamic demi-glaze, thyme and garlic.  Before serving, the can is boiled for about 30 minutes then opened and plated at the table.  We both agreed that foie gras loses important texture when boiled in a can and mainly becomes a lumpy part of the sauce.  Still, it didn’t distract from my husband’s enjoyment of Chef Martin Picard’s novel, innovative cuisine.

On the last day, after soliciting opinions on the best place to eat Quebec’s ubiquitous fast food dish, Poutine, the unanimous response was La Banquisse, within easy walking distance from the hotel.  Traditional Poutine is a hearty dish of fried potatoes, cheese curds and gravy although variations are also popular.

My husband had the basics with the additions of bacon, green pepper and mushrooms.  Realistically, unless you are working in a cotton field, two people can comfortably share a plate.  Did we?  No.

With protruding stomachs, we waddled back to our hotel terrace chairs to sparingly sip Fleurie to aid digestion.  It took a long time and more than one bottle 😀



Posted in Appetizer, Canadian, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments