Meat, Iron, Fire

When I was growing up, I wasn’t interested in cooking. At least, I didn’t think that cooking was something I should be concerned with. Yes, my father could cook but he rarely did. My mother did most of the cooking, and as many of us will agree in regards to their own mother, Mom’s cooking was always perfect. But as a boy, I didn’t see myself in the kitchen.

Then I got a little older, and I didn’t mind learning how to cook. But it was too late for that because I didn’t live with my parents anymore. A student dorm is not the best place to start cooking, and so I didn’t. However, one of the movies of that time struck me with a line that I remember for over 30 years. A movie character was preparing a shish-kebab for a party. He was a very sympathetic guy, a real role model. One of girls in the movie asked him with a surprise if he could cook. His response was “Meat, iron, fire – what can be simpler?”

Many years later, I finally decided to use that formula. I was contemplating making a leg of lamb for some time now. On my last shopping trip, I was going through the supermarket meat section and there were few of them in the freezer. So I thought to myself, “OK, I got my first ingredient, meat”.

The next step was to determine how it should be made. The internet is full of recipes, and if you are reading this essay you are a curious type like myself. It was obvious that I needed to marinate my lamb. Rosemary is the usual accompaniment to lamb, but I’m not a big fan of it because it is too strong for me. So I went for my own version of a marinade: 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup, 3 minced cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of wasabi. When I combined everything, it looked a little sticky, so I added 2 tablespoons of white wine. I smeared the meat with my mixture, wrapped it in plastic, and put everything in the fridge for 20 hours.

I wish I cut the fridge time by at least an hour and used that time for cooking. My second ingredient, “iron” was a simple rack that elevated the meat a little and created air circulation under the meat. I thought that it would help to cook the meat evenly from both sides. The standard for the third ingredient, “the fire” was 450 degrees for the first 20 minutes and then 20 minutes per pound at 350 degrees. Most recipe reviews I saw online complained that the cooking time was too long and the meat overcooked. I had 8 pounds of meat, which meant that I needed 3 hours of cooking time, which made me worried that the meat might burn.

My dinner guest came in 2 hours but the meat wasn’t ready. I checked again at the 3 hours mark, the top looked great and the meat was medium rare. The taste was exceptional! I cut enough meat to feed everybody.

But the bottom part of the leg was too rare. I turned the meat over and put it back in the oven for another hour while we were eating. A bottle of Spanish Rioja Crianza 2005 was a good accompaniment to the lamb.

The second day came; I had an almost intact leg with the bone inside. I put it back in the oven at 350 degrees for another hour.

The meat was juicy and tasty, and it was just as good as it was on the first day. We varied the garnish and it was almost like a new dish.

Can you eat the same meat for three consecutive days? I can but it calls for some changes. We cut the meat from the bone.

My wife made a pilaf using some of  the lamb. The pilaf includes more than three ingredients, so it didn’t fit my simplistic formula and I needed her help.

The whole experience was great! Next time, I will try to cook it at 400 degrees.

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