Mary had a little lamb. It was DELICIOUS.
I’ve been going through my recipe files and trying to organize them into a cookbook for the iPad so that I have easy, portable access when I want to find something. This is all for my personal use, because most of my go-tos are recipes I’ve found online over the years, created by someone else and thrown into an email folder, never again to see the light of day. When I make a recipe and love it, it goes into a different folder and gets sent out to the recipe mailing list I’ve grown over the years. (Today, if you’re on that list, you get an update when I throw a new recipe up to Baketard, which is intended to replace that list.)
Digging through old files I found this recipe, which was one we made a while back when we had a friend coming to town. I was lucky enough to score some lamb cheeks at the farmers’ market, and this recipe was just pretty and fussy enough for me to want to give it a go. I mean, let’s be serious—who doesn’t love ANYTHING surrounded by a vol au vent of puff pastry? Looks fancy, but it is really easy to prepare. You just need to plan for some braising time.
If you can’t get lamb cheeks (and let’s be honest, they’re not easy to acquire), this recipe would also work well with shanks. The cooking time would need to be a little bit longer—just check the meat after 3 hours and see if it’s ready to fall off the bone. That’s what you’re going for here.
I’m looking forward to light, delicious spring foods soon. Right now, with our overcast skies and constant rain, I’m still craving this kind of grub.
Braised Lamb Cheek Vol Au Vents with Creamed Mustard Greens and Gremolata
Adapted from a recipe by Michael Thurman, Martini House, St. Helena
6 4 oz. lamb cheeks
2 carrots, cut up
3 large onions, cut up
1 head garlic, minced
2 large cans chicken broth
1 bunch thyme
1 bay leaf
2 T black peppercorns
6 T whole mustard seed
Creamed Mustard Greens
4 bunches mustard greens
3 shallots thinly sliced
2 T butter
1 qt heavy cream
3 T whole grain mustard
2 T fresh ground
1 T fresh ground
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Season lamb cheeks with salt and pepper. Brown both sides on medium/high in 3 tablespoons vegetable oil. Set aside. Add 2 more tablespoons oil to pan, add vegetables, and sauté until golden brown. Transfer cheeks and vegetables to stock pot and cover with chicken broth.
Add thyme, garlic, and spices and bring to a boil. Cover with lid or foil and place in preheated 375 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove cheeks from liquid and cover with plastic; set aside. Strain liquid and discard vegetables and herbs. Reserve braising liquid.
Creamed Mustard Greens
In 2 quart saucepan sweat shallots in melted butter until translucent. Add cream and whole grain mustard. Bring to a slow simmer on medium heat (cream will scald and boil over if too hot.) Reduce cream by half; set aside and keep warm. Skim any skin that continues to form and discard.
Bring 2 gallons of salted water to a boil and add mustard greens. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes (until tender) and remove and plunge into cold water. Remove greens and
squeeze out excess water. Place in food processor and puree while slowly adding cream mixture. When desired consistency is met add nutmeg and mustard seed. Set aside.
Combine garlic, lemon zest, and parsley in mixing bowl. Add olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Vol au Vent (Puff Pastry)
Puff Pastry sheets can be purchased in the freezer section of the grocery store. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Allow pastry to thaw for about 20 minutes. Cut into 2-inch squares and place on heavily buttered cookie sheet. In small bowl, whisk egg and milk together. Brush egg mixture lightly over pastry squares.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Once removed from oven, cut 1/2" x 1/2" in the middle of each pastry square, remove and set aside
Warm Vol au Vent in oven and place lamb cheeks in hot braising liquid until warmed through. Place pastry on middle of plate and fill with greens. Place cheek on the greens and spoon one tablespoon of gremolata on top of cheek. Garnish plate with any extra gremolata.