Friday, April 27, 2012

Kitchen Engineering

Most of the time, when I cook with my closest friends, outside of baking, we don't measure, using a palm of a hand, or a pinch of the fingers, so probably half of my recipes are just approximations of measure.. It's a skill you learn over time, just as I can generally gauge the seasoning simply by smell.  I've had better luck with that than  with some"cookbooks".  When I first started cooking for friends, trying new and exotic things, there was one paella-like rice recipe out of a "famous food product" cookbook that involved  stuffed green olives, tomatoes, chili powder and (ahem) Coca cola, the smell of which, when combined and heated, literally emptied the house before someone drove out for pizza.

Tonight, I'll give you something less likely to result in an uncommanded evacuation. This is easy and incredibly tasty, another meal that is on the table quickly.  It was a joint production , my doing the prep of ingredients and EJ manning the broiler and stove. I use garlic/ginger and olive oil in my steak marinade, but his idea to add it to the panko was genius and it tasted incredible, especially paired with the root vegetables.

Lamb Chops with Garlic/Ginger Panko Crust with root vegetables. (the light was not good for a photo when it was done, but you get the idea).
The perfect chop, like the perfect steak is  sizzling, almost singed on the outside, and juicy, almost buttery within.  Famous steak/chop houses achieve that by salting/aging and/or using such a high temperature (higher than OUR ovens) that the moisture on the surface of the steak evaporates immediately.   Since that isn't not something easy to do at home, there's another plan.

You just need a little salt, a little cornstarch and your freezer.  The freezer's intensely dry environment sufficiently dehydrates the meat's exterior, and since they're only in for a short time, the interior stays tender and juicy..  Rub two thick lamb chops with a mixture of  a little more than a half teaspoon of salt and a little more than a teaspoon of cornstarch. Not exact measurements, but I didn't measure, just enough to lightly dust both sides of the chops.

Brush off any excess, put on a plate uncovered, and  place in the freezer for 30 minutes.  That draws the surface moisture out so broiling it initially makes for a nice crisp surface during a broil.

Now, get out your chopping board at your favorite  kitchen counter and  mix about 1/3 cup (roughly, it was two small scoopfuls in the hand). of unseasoned panko bread crumbs,  a tablespoon of crushed garlic (not powder) and some roughly chopped fresh  ginger (a piece about the size of a woman's thumb and peeled).  Don't chop the ginger as fine as the panko crumbs, you want a little bite of it in there as you dine.  Add just enough extra virgin olive oil to moisten and set aside. 

Chop a couple medium potatoes and 3-4 carrots into large but bite sized chunks., Toss with a splash of olive oil and several dashes of Penzey's Ozark seasoning (a mixture of a whole bunch of spices and herbs)  Place in a sauce pan with a half cup or so of water and steam for about 10 minutes while you broil the lamb chops about 5 minutes  per side.  While that steams, heat a  good spoonful of bacon fat in a deep cast iron skillet.  When pork chops are gently browned  and developing a bit of a crust (but NOT cooked through),drain the water off the veggies ( that should JUST be starting to soften) and place in the cast iron pan with the bacon fat, stir slightly and put lamb chops on top.  Top chops with panko crumbs.   Place in preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes for medium. (140 F. with a meat thermometer).  Remove foil the last 5 minutes to brown the crumbs if you wish.

Put on your serving plate,  sprinkling some of the savory panko crumbs on the potato carrot mixture. and sit back and relax.  Cooking with friends, the perfect way to end a work week.
click to enlarge, from a favorite - .The Whiteboard


  1. I cook with a pinch of this and pinch of that, too. Today I made bread and gave one of our four mini loaves to a neighbor. We ate two of them at dinner and have another for breakfast. While eating dinner I got a call from the neighbor telling me how good the bread is (was). "Is there something different in it this time?" I told her I put some vanilla yogurt in it this time. She asked, "How much?" I answered, "A glob." Silence on the phone. How the heck am I supposed to explain a glob?

  2. Very nice, and I'm betting is was delicious as usual! :-)

  3. Lois - I can picture a "glob" in my head 2 to 3 Tablespoons I'd wager.

    Old NFO - it wasn't very photogenic but it was really good, and easy. But seeing as you're the only reader that actually tackled the 72 layer cream cheese biscuits I don't think you let "difficult" get in the way.

  4. Rachel Ray cooks this way, a pinch, a dash, a drizzle, a glop, a handful etc. That is the best way to cook.

    Thanks Brigid your one of the best.

  5. I have contributed a lot of recipes to a couple who have written quite a few camp cooking cookbooks. The problem came when I submitted my recipes and the authors are sticklers for total accuracy. Now, can you imagine cooking in a camp dutch oven, miles from civilization on a canoe trip and you bother to bring out the measuring spoons and measuring cups? I just told them to put what they think is best! Since they tested all the recipes before publication, they added exact measurements.

  6. Exactly...Alton Brown was the first one to convince me about the importance of actually 'measuring' for baking applications, but everything else is more of a 'I like cumin more than paprika, so I'll put a little more of that in' technique.

  7. You HAD to mention the 72 layer cream cheese biscuits...

  8. My husband has a cookbook called "Tassajara Cooking" written by Monks or something. Very few of the recipes actually have measurements. The book encourages you to experiment.

    I remember watching my Grandmother making biscuits when I was little. She never measured anything! She made biscuits every day. There came a point when she just knew how many pinches of baking powder were in a teaspoon.

  9. Rob - thank you! :-)

    Sherry - my friend showed me this outdoor cookbook, it was antigue, found at half price books, there were recipes with 25 ingredients, few of which you'd be able to hike in with, or store without a whole fridge. We got a pretty laugh about it.

    Greg - baking is science, there's no doubt about it. I love Alton Brown. My son in law has all of his CD's.

    Guffaw - I make those once a year, like the croissants, an all day undertaking.

    Annie - I'll have to poke around for that, sounds interesting. My Mom only used recipes for the Norwegian cookies and pastries, everything else she just made.


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