When I realized I had the day of Mike’s birthday off, I decided that it would become a cooking extravaganza. I asked him what menu he wanted and he selected something with lamb, a risotto, our infamous brussel sprouts, and homemade chocolate peanut butter CUPS for dessert.
After seeing that the price of lamb on Fresh Direct was absolutely outrageous ($45 for a single piece?! WTF?) I went with the lamb shoulder chop. It was billed as being just as flavorful and juicy as its more expensive counterparts. I looked around for recipes for a while and didn’t come up with anything that really jumped out at me. I picked up a Bon Appetit magazine randomly at the hair salon that morning and, there it was… “Lamb Chops with Pomegranate and Dried Figs.” Done. Went to the gourmet food store and had problems finding pomegranate marmalade, so I went with a pomegranate jam instead and hoped for the best.
I decided to go with a mushroom risotto to compliment the other strong flavors and found a recipe that sounded good (see below). It was a bitch to keep stirring while putting everything else together, but I’ve determined that constant stirring of risotto isn’t necessary after the first few additions of liquid. Just gotta go back to it often.
This time I wound up making the brussel sprouts with small diced pancetta. It produced more pancetta grease to brown the brussel sprouts in, however, I missed those big bites of pancetta when we were eating it later. Next time, I’ll go half big dice half little dice.
The plate came together very well, and all the flavors played nicely against each other.
Dessert is where I started to get creative. I made the chocolate peanut butter cups in much the same way I make my chocolate peanut butter bars. I cut cupcake cups in half and then melted down some milk chocolate to fill in the bottom of the cups. I would take the individual cups out into my hand and spread the chocolate up the sides of the cup to the edge. To my surprise, it stayed, forming a perfect bowl in the center. I put these in the fridge to harden. I then whipped up some peanut butter filling. For 12 individual cups, I had plenty of filling by combining 1 cup of peanut butter with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 2 TBsp butter, and about 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs. I filled these into the hardened chocolate cups then tamped it down on the counter to get a perfectly even surface. I then melted down some more chocolate and poured this over the peanut butter filling and smoothed it over to the edges. Back in the fridge and 20 minutes later I had perfect little homemade reeses. It was SO easy and looked so good. The paper was a wee bit hard to peel off (next time I’ll look for stiffer ones) but it all comes off and tastes so good. I may give these as little gifts this holiday season.
(Making the cup bottoms)
(Filling the cups with peanut butter than putting on the top layer of chocolate)
This was so easy, in fact, that I felt as though I hadn’t done quite enough for Mike’s birthday. The back of the chocolate morsels box had a recipe for “brownies that are more like fudge” so I decided to make some bigger peanut butter cups too. I mixed up a smaller proportion of the brownie mixture and put it into 2 popover pans. Baked these up and, while they were in the oven, got to making some peanut butter mousse (recipe below). Once it was all done and the brownies cooled, I cut out the center of the top of the popover in a cone shape and then filled the inside with the peanut butter mousse. Topped each one with an unwrapped peanut butter cup and v’oila:
(brownies cooked in popover pans)
(one with the center cut out for filling)
(folding together the peanut butter and whipped cream)
What was interesting about the mousse is that it was nice and fluffy and creamy the night I made it, but after refrigerating the leftovers, it definitely thickened and became more the consistency of soft fudge. Delicious either way! Especially when mixed with some vanilla ice cream!
Lamb Chops with Fig and Pomegranate Relish
· 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
· 1/4 cup diced dried Calimyrna figs
· 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
· 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
· 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
· 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
· 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed, divided
· 2 5-ounce lamb loin chops or shoulder blade chops
1. Mix pomegranate seeds (I omitted), diced figs, fresh mint, balsamic vinegar (good quality), and pomegranate molasses (or jam!) with 3 teaspoons oil, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin in small bowl.
2. Sprinkle lamb with remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, salt, and pepper.
3. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Add lamb; cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium.
5. Top with relish and serve.
Gourmet Mushroom Risotto
Ingredients: (I halved this and it was still enough for 3 meals for the 2 of us)
· 6 cups chicken broth, divided
· 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
· 1 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
· 1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
· 2 shallots, diced
· 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
· 1/2 cup dry white wine
· sea salt to taste
· freshly ground black pepper to taste
· 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
· 4 tablespoons butter
· 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.
2. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.
3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Peanut Butter Mousse
· 1 cup creamy peanut butter
· 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
· 1 cup powdered sugar
· 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
· 1 cup chilled whipping cream
- Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter and cream cheese in large bowl to blend.
- Add powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons vanilla extract and beat until well blended.
- Using clean dry beaters, beat 2 cups whipping cream in medium bowl until stiff peaks form
- Fold gently into peanut butter mixture in 4 additions