Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Make Ahead Experiment

I love Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen. I get a subscription to both magazines, watch the shows on DVR, and make a lot of their recipes. I very rarely have a miss, so when I saw their cookbooks for crock pot cooking and make ahead cooking, I was on board. One reason: their times are always right. The Cook’s Country magazine always has 30 minute meals in the center, and they truly are 30 minutes to make! So now I’m working my way through the Make Ahead Cook.

First up: Vegetable and Orzo pasta. I made this casserole on Sunday afternoon. It was pretty easy to make. On Monday, I finished it off. While it definitely saved me time on Monday, it was a total of at least 2 hours cooking time, so it didn’t save me time so much as redistribute my time.

Sadly, the casserole was not as delicious as I had hoped. Pasta, cheese, squash and arugula? Sounds awesome. The arugula was, actually, really tasty, and the flavors were good. The casserole itself was just watery. It needed more time in the oven. A thicker cheese crust on top would've added some visual appeal too.

Tuesday I did the “Sunday roast” routine. I roast leg of lamb one day, then use it for leftovers the second day.

OK, the roast lamb was amazing. It was 2 hours of prep time and then the lamb had to rest for 20 minutes, so that made putting the sides together tricky. But the prep really wasn’t too bad. Basically I threw together the seasonings into the oven for an hour, then trimmed the lamb, pounded it “flat”, cut a hatch pattern into the fat and salted it, then let it sit on the counter while the seasonings roasted. Next I threw the lamb on top of the seasonings for a half hour in the oven, and finished it under the broiler. Oh my gosh, it was SO GOOD. And note well: I'm not a master at pounding meat flat. My lamb had lots of thickness variations and looked kind of crazy, but it didn't matter in the end.

Of the two leftover options for Wednesday, it was either salad or shawarma. I’m not 100% crazy about the shawarma, because that’s not really my kind of food. But I hate salad and it's too cold for salad anyway. Plus we have an awesome Mediterranean restaurant/market nearby, so I got some nice fresh pita bread and delicious baklava for dessert. Tonight it’s just a matter of cutting up the toppings (lettuce and tomato), mixing some yogurt with some tahini, quick sautéing the leftover lamb, and assembly. Basically burgers with different components. If I were a master chef, I’d probably make a side dish, or at least buy some hummus. One day. One day…

The lamb shawarma was REALLY good. I didn’t care for the yogurt tahini sauce, but I suppose it added a bit. The lamb was amazing – tender, flavorful, and cut to just the right size for eating in a wrap. (I did that. As someone with severe jaw issues and braces, biting into sandwiches is a challenge).

So here’s the best part of the Lamb roast with leftovers. The original recipe, which said it serves 4, called for 6 pounds of lamb. That’s a lot of meat. I got just over 4 pounds. I’m feeding myself, Husband, and a 3.5 year old. The little one occasionally eats more than her parents combined, and some nights eats 1 bite. Well, the 4 pounds of lamb has plenty of leftovers. I can do lamb shawarma again, or just reheat the roast lamb and leftover lemon potatoes. So, yes, I’m feeding 2.5 people v. 4, but even then I have more than enough with just 4 pounds of meet.

Pretty sure next week I’ll do the 2 roast chickens and leftover recipes. Exciting!

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