After watching Chopped on the Food Network for about 4 hours in our hotel on Saturday night, Nate and I decided to have our very own CHOPPED competition at home.
Nate chose the ingredients for me, and he did NOT make things easy.
Lamb neck shoulder slices - a tough, fatty cut of lamb with barely any edible meat on it
Horseradish - raw horseradish root,very bitter and lacking the finesse of prepared horseradish
Peach-Strawberry Shrub - a syrup made from equal parts of sugar, fruit, and vinegar. It's very tart and very sweet.
We decided to not put a time limit on the meal, since it was my first challenge.
I immediately knew that I wanted to used the shrub in a viniagrette, and I decided to do a roasted fingerling potato salad. I tossed some fingerling potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then put them on a baking sheet and into a 425 degree oven. They were in the oven for about 30 minutes, and I shook the pan half way through so they wouldn't burn.
In the meantime, I had to deal with the other ingredients. The first thing that came to mind for the horseradish was making a horseradish-dijon mustard cream sauce for the lamb. I seasoned the lamb with salt and pepper and seared it in olive oil, then removed it from the pan. I sauteed some garlic cloves and a sliced shallot, then removed those from the pan as well.
While the lamb was browning, I made a viniagrette for the potato salad from the shrub, olive oil, salt, pepper, thinly sliced shallots, and chopped fresh parsley.
Back to the lamb: I added 2 TBSP of butter to the pan and let it melt, then sprinkled over 2 TBSP of flour, letting the flour cook for about 3 minutes. I gradually whisked in about 1 cup of whole milk, then added 2 TBSP dijon mustard, 2 TBSP grated horseradish, about 1/3 cup of a strong IPA (beer), 1 tsp red wine vinegar, salt & pepper, and about 1 TBSP fresh thyme leaves.
I had to make a beurre manié because the sauce wasn't thickening up enough (I think my proportion of liquid to flour was off in the beginning). After I added it, the mixture thickened to the perfect consistency. I added the lamb, garlic, and shallots back into the pan with the sauce and covered it, took the potatoes out of the oven and reduced the temperature to 325, then put the lamb in the oven.
I tossed the potatoes in a bowl with the vinaigrette, then put the bowl in the fridge.
The lamb cooked for about 35 minutes, and then the meal was ready to serve.
The best part of the meal was the potato salad. The shrub vinaigrette was tart, a little sweet, and had a nice fresh flavor from the parsley. The potatoes were firm yet creamy and the whole salad was a nice bright way to cut through the heaviness of the lamb and cream sauce.
The cream sauce was good, but the horseradish flavor was surprisingly tame after it had cooked. The trouble with fresh horseradish is that it is more bitter than the prepared kind, so using enough of the fresh root to get that hot kick, you end up adding a lot of extra bitterness to the dish, which I wanted to avoid. So, the sauce was perfectly edible, but could have used some extra zing.
The lamb neck shoulder slices were surprisingly edible when we could find bits of meat among the gristle, bone, and fat. If we made this dish again I would not choose lamb unless it was an actual chop. The lamb neck shoulder slices are clearly meant to be stewed and cooked low and slow, but this being a CHOPPED challenge we really didn't have the time for that!
All in all, it was a fun experience and we plan on doing it once a week, to help keep my culinary skills sharp!
The best part is that we actually really loved the potato salad, so now I have a new dish I can add to my repertoire.