Friday, June 30, 2006

Think Outside the Knee-Jerk

We let the fine folks at Prather Ranch concoct our lamb sausages, but it took a knee-jerk suggestion from the resident jerk to come up with a suitable condiment.
"Lamb?" thought the resident jerk. "Mint."
I've never been one to automatically reach for the mint jelly when the roast lamb comes out of the oven, tradition or no.
Wait. We didn't roast lamb in my family when I was growing up. At all. And we never, ever, had mint jelly in the fridge.
So even though the jerk's suggestion was classical, iconic, archetypal, knee-jerk — it wasn't going to happen.
Besides, the lamb sausage was already seasoned with its own mysterious blend of flavorings (salt apparently being foremost among them, as we learned upon tasting the cooked links).
But it needed something... green. Snappy. Tart. Minty, even. Perhaps a salsa, whispered the resident jerk.
Mint, we have: growing lustily on the patio. That was rounded out with a chopped jalapeño, a couple of diced tomatillos and a goodly wad of minced garlic chives. Oh, and (darn), some salt. Hadn't tasted the salty cooked sausages yet, so on autopilot I threw some salt into the simmering tomatillos.
Let it cook and soften for a while, scoop it into a dish, and allow diners to dose their sausages as they see fit.
We used up the entire batch of salsa on just two sausages. It was prototypical, quintessential, paradigmatic.
But it was not knee-jerk.

16 comments:

Greg said...

Mint Salsa..your thinking outside the box.I'll give it a try.

Dagny said...

Currant is another traditional flavor to go with lamb. And isn't there an Indian chutney that mixes mint with peppers?

kat said...

lavender and lemon make a nice lamb pairing...

cookiecrumb said...

Well, see? I didn't grow up in a lamb household, so I'm ignorant about all these yummy flavor pairings.
More, please!

Sam said...

I certainly grew up in a lamb household, but never heard of mint jelly until i was a "grown up". That's because we had mint sauce instead. Yeppity, yep, nothing fancy about it. Just chopped mint leaves soaked in bog-standard brown malt vinegar. There is nuffin fancy about me, you see.

(I am not going to admit that the mint leaves were shop-bought, in a jar, preserved in vinegar, but really, they were; we added the malt vinegar to thin them out and make it go further. )

Sam said...

ps. these days i like lamb with lemon rosemary and garlic. it's pretty traditional, but that is because it is good.

Dagny said...

Thank you, Sam. I had always wondered what the liquid was in the mint sauce. I thought of the currants because the summer I was in England long ago, I was given a choice of a currant sauce or a mint sauce with my lamb. My family always served mint jelly -- the stuff that was that very unnatural green. Now I use organic mint jelly from either TJ's or Andronico's. Hmmm. But the last recipe I used had a balsamic vinegar reduction as the sauce. Unfortunately I did not take photos of the meal.

kudzu said...

I paradig your sauce idea. I like to go Greekish with oregano, garlic and lemon (fresh herb, of course, used judiciously), when I tire of rosemary-garlic (almost never). Kumquats and fresh Italian parsley do well with it, too. Never tasted mint sauce (not jelly) until I was at Bennington, which had a pretty good food service; it was the Brit style Sam described, but with fresh mint, and served only with leg of lamb, never with chops; there were no lamb sausages there.

Cookie's Mom said...

Hi CC,
I guess you don't remember the roast leg of lamb that I occasionally made. It was covered with Dijon mustard, rosemary and I think garlic. We loved it. Maybe you were away at school?

cookiecrumb said...

Hi Mom: Oh, now that's worth a memory jolt! Totally Dijon and garlic. I think I can almost remember... (But you admit there was never mint jelly, right?) True, as your cooking got grander and grander (and Dad's salary grew, however modestly, to where he could support this kind of cuisine), your kitchen really began turning out some fantastic things. And, as you surmise, I was growing older and was not home as often. Darn!

Kudzu: Greek 'n' lamb; naturellement (or however they say that in Greek).

Sam: Oh, so that's what's in those bottles. Ew.

Catherine said...

As a child, I had lamb with mint sauce with fresh mint leaves and lots of sugar. But now I'm the kinda gal that says "let the lambs skip". Use the mint sauce on veggies and tofu - that's thinking outside the knee-jerk IMHO.

Kalyn said...

Sounds good to me. I have to admit, I pretty much like fresh mint no matter what you use it in.

Catherine said...

Cookie - please forgive my preachy, non-sensical remark from yesterday. I don't know what I was thinking, but it sure didn't come out right. Apologies.

cookiecrumb said...

Not at all, Catherine. Sometimes I'm surprised I don't get gently scolded more often, because I read a lot of blogs by vegetarians and vegans.
In fact, I had come to the conclusion that you were a lifelong vegetarian, and now I know you've tasted the "stuff"!
Your remarks are always welcome.

Catherine said...

You're very generous. I thought I'd outgrown that preachiness a long time ago (along with the "if you were starving you'd eat meat" - "Never!" response, which is clearly absurd and in many ways elitist). I grew up on roast beef and lamb as a regular, but I've been a veg for a long time. Now, when I think of lamb, I think of Farm girl's pics! Mint sauce, however, is great with roast potatoes. Cheers!

Glenna said...

Wow. I'm in lamb heaven. I didn't grow up in a lamb household either (more of a what are we going to do with all the venison from deer season, dad, kind of household) so all these wonderful flavor combinations and my fairly new meat discovery are like opening a fabulous book to be savored. Love the idea of mint and jalapeno, plus all of the other flavors mentioned. Yum!