I’m not much of a cook.
Like most people in the city, I enjoy good food and eat out at restaurants more often than I should. But let’s face it: we have some of the best chefs in the world in our backyard, home-cooked food just doesn’t cut it.
With all this restaurant-going, the bills add up. It’s about time I learned how to cook properly, and I’m bringing you all on this ride along with me.
Each week, I’ll be borrowing a restaurant-style recipe from an acclaimed chef in New York City and conjuring up my own version of his or her creation. It won’t be perfect — and I’ll venture to guess sometimes the results will be disastrous — but I’ll be chronicling it here for you all the same.
Here’s how it went this week…
American Lamb Sloppy Joes from Meatball Shop
Courtesy of Chef Daniel Holzman
- 1.5 lbs ground American lamb shoulder
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, minced
- 1 green pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 yellow pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 red pepper, seeded and minced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 3 tsp. paprika
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste
- .75 cup white wine
- 2 tbsp. cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. salt
- 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- .5 cup water
- In a large pot, sauté the lamb in the olive oil over high heat, stirring frequently until browned and beginning to crisp (about 12 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb from the pan and reserve aside, being careful to leave any oil and rendered fat in the pot.
- Lower the heat to medium, add the vegetables and spices to the pan and continue to cook, stirring frequently until soft (about 10 minutes).
- Add tomato paste and cook stirring constantly for 3 minutes then add tomatoes, sugar, wine, vinegar, water, salt and reserved lamb. Bring the stew to a simmer, lower the heat to low and continue to cook for half an hour. Enjoy on a toasted brioche bun.
A few compromises: I bought minced garlic instead of whole cloves, skipped the tomato paste component (I already had the crushed), and I settled for non-alcoholic white wine because it’s cheaper. Whole Foods didn’t carry brioche buns, so I went with wheat ones.
Apparently, ground lamb isn’t a common thing you can find in grocery stores. Compared to say, turkey or beef, lamb is really expensive. I was tempted to give up and switch to ground beef, but that would have defeated the purpose of the recipe.
The recipe called for lamb shoulder, but there were bones involved.
Boneless lamb leg? Close enough. $12.99 dollars per pound? I cringed a little, but went ahead with the purchase. “I’m going to round it up to $15 for you,” the butcher at Whole Foods said. Great.
Next came the vegetable and spice mix, which was easy enough.
Everything went into a large pot and then this is when things started going really wrong.
I added too much of the crushed tomatoes. The jar looked like it was the equivalent two cans so I just dumped it all in. (I bought it in a jar because I don’t own a can opener yet.)
But then I read the label: 1/4 cup per serving. 12 servings.
I was making meat sauce now.
“Uh…how do you feel about lamb pasta?” I asked my brother.
He looked over.
“That looks nasty.”
But it didn’t taste nasty at all. Even though my tomato measurements were way off, I did follow Holzman’s spice mix to the letter. The paprika and cumin really complemented the lamb and I managed to fix the overly saucy situation by fishing out the contents using a slatted ladle.
It was good. My brother ate it without a complaint and I was full after just one.
As for the leftovers?
In all, this made six burgers and two servings of pasta. We’ll take it.