Last summer, I went to East Carson Street with my cousin, S to buy him “a drink or two” as a thank you for helping me move into my house and peeling some wallpaper in my kitchen. We ended our night the way many Pittsburghers do– by slamming gyros from Mike and Tony’s into our faces. And also by telling each other how awesome the other one was. It wasn’t my first gyro… but it was THE gyro that pretty much solidified lamb as my favorite meat. That night was hands down a major turning point in my life.
Too much? Okay. I’ll get to my point…
Since then, Y and I have tested out a couple of recipes that we definitely enjoy making on those days that Shop ‘n’ Save randomly has lamb available, or we make a Saturday morning trip to Wholey’s in the Strip. It goes great with couscous or polenta– both of which are super easy to make and oh so delicious.
We recently went to Ibiza on East Carson Street (like that? I just came full circle) for a date and shared some tapas. Our favorite small plate by far was one of their specials for the night: Lamb with a Wasabi-Crust. It was so good, that the next day I started googling recipes. The weird thing though is that the recipe was not easy to find. It took a couple of days and a few different phrasings before I finally tried, “Wasabi Crusted Lamb” and found this recipe on a Charlotte, NC news site: Almond Butter Wasabi Pea Crusted Rack of Lamb.
Now, usually I’d go for my old standby for a side dish– you just can’t go wrong with couscous. But couscous is a no-no this week so Y suggested that I make asparagus, as one of the other tapas we tried was a smoked salmon with asparagus.
I decided to make prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, which I’ve made before and absolutely love. I have a recipe from Table Magazine that I photocopied back in 2008 when I was working at The Hampton Inn which is also in the Strip District. Fun fact: this is one of the first recipes that I photocopied, printed, jotted down, etc. to try at home. It’s a pretty basic recipe that I’ve seen variations of in 100 places. Sometimes, it’s served with raw prosciutto and hollandaise sauce. I like to cook mine, but I thought that I’d make the hollandaise anyway just for extra flavor (and to see if I could…)
There is a lot going on when you make this dish, so multitasking is key.
Step 1: Let your rack of lamb sit out and allow it to come to room temperature. This should take 30 minutes or so. I used a 1/2 rack for two people, a whole rack should feed 4-6 people, depending I guess on how hungry everybody is. I bought this from The Market District in Robinson from their extensive meat counter.
Step 2: While your meat is resting, cut the ends off of the asparagus. We got this asparagus from Stan’s Market in the Strip and as you can see, they are huge. I prefer the flavor of skinny asparagus better– I think they are juicier when cooked– so when I saw the size of these, I decided to make the hollandaise sauce.
Step 3: lightly toss the asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with some fresh ground black pepper. DO NOT– I repeat– DO NOT salt the asparagus. The first time I made this, I only half read the recipe and figured that if I was peppering, I’d be salting too, so I went for it. The salty asparagus with the salty flavor of the prosciutto was overwhelming.
Step 4: French the rack of lamb. If you aren’t sure what that means or how to do it, go here. That’s what I did a few hours ago! The one on their website looks way better than mine and I learned something interesting: I could have probably asked the butcher to do this part for me.
Step 5: Drizzle the the lamb loin with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Y has these great sea salt and course black pepper grinders from Costco. I’m definately getting some for my house on our next shopping trip. If you don’t have a sea salt grinder, you can use already-ground sea salt, or kosher salt. If you aren’t the kind of person to keep a whole bunch of salts laying around, table salt will work too.
Step 6: Heat a pan on the stove with a splash of olive oil in the bottom. I used a cast iron pan. When it’s good and hot, sear the lamb on both sides– each for about 2 minutes. Once it’s seared, move it to a plate and let it cool off.
Step 7: Back to the asparagus! Separate the asparagus into bundles of three, and wrap each bundle in a slice of prosciutto. If you have the skinny asparagus, use half a piece for each bundle. I get my prosciutto from Penn Mac and nowhere else. The people who work there are so knowledgable and helpful. I just tell the guy what I need the meat for (asparagus, melon, whatever) and he recommends the right kind. I bought prosciutto from Costco once and it was delicious for eating on a sandwich, but not for wrapping around veggies and cooking, so I stick with the speciality store now.
Step 8: Place the bundles on a baking sheet and cook at 350° F for 10 minutes.
Step 9: Spread some almond butter on the lamb and then press crushed wasabi peas onto it. I used a coffee grinder to grind 3/4 cups and didn’t even use all of it.
Step 10: Put the lamb back into the cast iron pan and put it in the oven at 425° F. We left it in for about 20 minutes and it came out between medium and medium-rare (the pieces in the picture above are probably medium, while the ones not in the picture were rarer).
Step 11: Make the hollandaise sauce. I used this recipe from Tyler Florence on the Food Network: Hollandaise Sauce and Eggs Benedict. I’m putting the Eggs Benedict recipe away for another day, since that’s my sister’s favorite. Start by juicing 1/2 of one lemon.
Step 12: Whisk the lemon juice with 4 egg yolks until it is thick, then put it over a double broiler and slowly add one stick of melted butter, continuing to whisk briskly. When it is combined remove from heat and add salt and black pepper to taste. Tyler’s recipe calls for cayenne pepper, but we don’t have any of that at Y’s house (whcih is weird, because he likes spicy food and I don’t).
Step 13: Slice the other 1/2 of the lemon and grill lightly to serve with the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus bundles.
This meal is great for special occasions, dinner parties, or you know… Tuesday Night after work!
Come back tomorrow when we go vegetarian for the night and get to eat carbs (yay!) with Mushroom Quesadillas and Guacamole!