An Early Start to 2016’s Braise-a-Month Project

My dad, Logan and I all love lamb and typically reserve it for bachelor dad dinners. Since we were all three together for the holidays, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up to share this common bond. For the non-lamb eaters in the family, there was leftover prime rib from Christmas dinner the day before – not a bad deal as leftovers go. I went with the iPhone camera for this post because there just aren’t that many clear spaces on the counter during the holidays.

So let’s jump in for Braise #1 in this project that has just turned into a 13-month project… Beginning with the end in mind, here is the aerial shot of the plated meal:

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Braised lamb with a bonus end piece on top (I do love the end pieces with the seasoning crust), hassleback potato and green beans amandine.

We joined Costco this year to get a good deal on a pre-lit Christmas tree and picked up a 5-pound boneless leg of lamb for this meal.

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The roast came all nice and neat in a net, but this one got seasoned inside and out. I cut the net off, rolled out the roast, and cut through the thicker section to get it all relatively flat.

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For the inside, I made a rub of shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme and rosemary with olive oil.

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My trussing skills aren’t quite as neat and tidy as the netting, but I eventually got  everything bundled up.

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I seasoned the outside with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

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I seared the roast in the cast iron dutch oven in duck fat. It seemed appropriate for the holidays – not quite a Christmas goose, but the thought was there.

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The braise used shallots, celery, carrots, wine and water seasoned with a little leftover ragú instead of tomato paste and a bay leaf for good measure.  Oh, and a secret ingredient for an extra smooth sauce.

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The veggies all cleaned up for the party

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Sautéed with the ragú

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The bay leaf floating on wine and water

The lamb and secret ingredient went in next with parchment paper under the lid to help hold in the moisture.

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The braise went into the oven at 325° for 2 1/2 hrs. I turned the lamb over twice during the braise as a lazy basting. Next up, I prepped the potatoes.

I found this idea on the internet – Hasselback Potatoes. No, they aren’t some Pinterest idea from Matt’s wife on The View (that show is blocked on my satellite). They are from Sweden’s Restaurant Hasselbacken by way of The Kitchn. I found another suggestion on the web somewhere to use chopsticks to help with the cutting and went with that technique. They are described as a mix of french fries and mashed potatoes. How could that be bad?!

So here we go… Yukon Gold potatoes, chopsticks and my knife.

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I cheated a bit since this was my first time and sliced the bottoms so the potatoes would sit flat and be easier to cut.

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The chopsticks worked quite well as a depth stop.

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In keeping with the Christmas theme, I brushed the potatoes with duck fat but these would be just as good with butter or bacon grease.

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I brushed with duck fat again after 30 minutes in the oven and seasoned with Aromat to keep the European theme going. While the potatoes were in for the second half of the hour, I reduced the strained pan juices for sauce and made the green beans amandine to round out the meal. The ladies even tasted the lamb and didn’t hate it!

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The sauce was decadent and delicious and made the meal to be sure. The lamb without the sauce was a bit dry which was surprising. It was a very lean piece though so perhaps I’ll lay some bacon over the next one. The sauce more than remedied the situation and made the potatoes even better. Speaking of the potatoes – crispy edges and a creamy center. A mix of french fries and mashed potatoes was a fair description and these will definitely become standard fare in my kitchen going forward.

Well, that wraps up braise #1 of the 2016 Braise-a-Month project. The next one will be shot with the Canon. The meat is still TBD… hmmmm….

Have a safe and happy new year!



Reflecting on 2015 and Looking Forward to 2016

I posted a whole 7 times in 2015. I guess that makes me not a very prolific blogger. All my posts were about food, so at least I stuck to a theme. Being a prolific blogger isn’t a goal, but sharing my own entertainment with others is fun. So… I’ll keep at it for 2016.


I actually started the year with a braised sirloin pappardelle. Foreshadowing for 2016 that I didn’t even realize until just now. More on that in a moment. I made that homemade pasta with my mother’s Atlas hand crank pasta machine. I’ve made a few different fresh pastas with that machine and with the KitchenAid extruder attachment. Fresh pasta is good. It’s fun. It’s worth it. Going into 2016, I now have the KitchenAid roller attachments, a tapered rolling pin, and Kansui (magical liquid needed for ramen and pretzels).

My new food thing for 2015 was duck. I made confit and bacon a few times and have used the duck fat in a few dishes. I’m looking forward to a few more trips to Maple Leaf to branch into some new duck dishes.

I traveled a bit and took a few photos but nothing very consistent or thought out. I plan to step that up a bit for 2016.

This past year has been an adventure in parenting. We’ve had highs and lows and college tuition and braces and glasses and a couple bets. 2016 will bring a graduation and another transition to and tuition for college. And hopefully more highs than lows. And I’ll be 2/3 of the way to being an empty nester this time next year.


I came across a book at mom and dad’s about braising (remember that foreshadowing comment earlier?). I’m intrigued… so this year will be Braise-a-month year. I’ve braised beef a few times in 2015 more by accident than on purpose. I’ll work on my technique, expand my proteins, and broaden the flavors.

I may take the plunge into full frame photography. We’ll see… that’ll require a new camera. Either way, I’m going to get back into the habit of carrying my camera with me on every trip to capture the new sights and work on my composition and technique.

Stay tuned… perhaps I’ll actually blog at least once a month and get food, travel and photography all into the act.

Merry Christmas 2015 and Happy New Year 2016!