Olympic Inspiration: Recipe for Loin of Lamb with Mini Moussaka
In July of 2004, I was working on a new menu at my Tribeca restaurant, Chanterelle. The summer Olympics in Athens were about to begin, which naturally got me thinking about Greek food. I decided to tap into memories of traveling in Greece, and also of cheap meals in cafeteria-style restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, where I lived in the 1970s.
It was while in Hell’s Kitchen that I came up with the following dish, in which a marinade suitable for shish kebab is applied to lamb loin, and the typically hearty casserole moussaka is reworked as a small and elegant dish. Fresh marjoram is substituted for the more aggressive oregano that is common in Greek cuisine. I’ll be serving this dish as one of several courses at A Night at Chanterelle, an exclusive dinner I’ll be cooking at ICE on September 23rd to showcase some of my favorite autumnal recipes. Hope to see you there!
Recipe: Loin of Lamb with Mini Moussaka and Marjoram
- 2 ½ cups olive oil
- 1 tablespoon plus
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 pound ground lamb
- ¼ cup tomato purée
- 1 teaspoon plus a couple of pinches piment d’Espelette or Aleppo pepper
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup coarsely chopped marjoram leaves and stems, plus some for garnish
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 ¼ pound lamb loin, with most of the fat trimmed off
- 2 medium onions, very coarsely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, very coarsely chopped
- 3 heads of garlic, cut in half horizontally
- 1 lamb shank, cut through the bone into ¾ inch sections (or an equivalent amount of meaty lamb bones)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups veal stock
- 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
- 2 medium Chinese eggplants, unpeeled, cut into ¼ inch rounds
- 1 whole egg, plus 1 egg yolk
- ⅔ cup plain whole milk Greek-style yogurt
- ¼ cup milk
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- Cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add ½ teaspoon of the minced garlic and the chopped onion. Sweat the garlic and the onion, then add the ground lamb. Continue to cook, mixing and breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon until it loses its pink color. Add the tomato purée and heat through.
- Transfer the lamb mixture to a colander and drain fat and liquid. Season with salt, a pinch of piment d’Espelette or Aleppo pepper, cumin, allspice and cinnamon. Cool and set aside.
- Add 2 cups of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of piment d’Espelette or Aleppo pepper, ½ cup of the marjoram and the lemon juice to a mixing bowl and whisk together. Place the lamb loin in the bowl and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 12 hours.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy saucepot over high heat. When hot, add the chopped onion, carrots, garlic heads and lamb shank or trim, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add the wine and continue to cook, scraping the bottom of the saucepot to deglaze, until most of the wine evaporates. Add the stock, bay leaves and ½ cup marjoram. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour.
- Using a colander, carefully strain the broth into a small saucepot. Simmer over medium heat until reduced to about 1 cup. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and a drop or so of lemon juice. Reserve for use when you’re ready to plate and serve.
- To make the moussaka, preheat oven to 350°F. Toss the eggplant rounds with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Place the eggplant slices on a sheet pan and bake until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes.
- In a bowl, make the custard by whisking together the egg, egg yolk, yogurt, milk, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of piment d’Espelette or Aleppo pepper.
- Assemble the moussakas using four ring molds, each 2-inches in diameter and 2-inches tall. Line the bottom of each mold with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray.
- Divide the eggplant slices in the bottom of each mold and place about 3 tablespoons of the ground lamb mixture in each ring mold, packing the meat in well. Pour the custard over the lamb to nearly fill the molds. Bake until the custard is set, about 40 minutes.
- When ready to serve, drain the lamb loin and pat dry. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. When hot, add lamb loin. Brown well on all sides, then finish in the oven until lamb is rare. Allow to rest.
- Spoon an equal amount of your reserved sauce onto each of 4 plates. Unmold the moussakas by removing the foil and pushing them out, custard side up, onto each plate. Slice the lamb and divide between the 4 plates. Garnish with marjoram leaves.
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