How to Roast a Whole Saddle of Goat or Lamb

Alan Bergo / Forager Chef

This story is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm and written by Alan Bergo of Forager Chef.

There’s almost no better test of a home cook’s mettle than a large roast. Working with hefty sub-primal cuts like prime rib or leg of lamb (the subject of my previous piece) demands much stronger boning, roasting and carving skills than relying on pre-trimmed, conventional component parts like pork chops and beef tenderloin medallions.

But whatever sub-primals might ask of you, they return in spades: You get the ability not just to feed a large crowd, but also to wow them with an impressive display: That glorious hunk of roasted goodness emerging from the oven; the anticipation of that first, mouthwatering slice from the carving knife; that exquisite reveal of a perfect rosy interior framed by a brown, crispy, salty crust.

But let’s say you’ve already proven yourself with prime rib and leg of lamb. What’s next? Short of roasting an entire animal on a spit, how do you take your special-occasion cooking to the next level?

Here’s how: Roast up a whole saddle of goat or lamb.

What’s a saddle? Butcher specifications can vary a bit, but basically, the saddle of any animal is two whole loins, complete with the tenderloins that are on the other side of the bone. In reality, it is a what T-bone steaks look like in their sub-primal (whole-muscle) form.

If you took a cleaver to a goat or lamb saddle, you would end up with a bunch of small lamb or goat t-bone chops. But don’t start hacking away just yet…

Alan Bergo / Forager Chef

With their smaller size relative to beef and pork, creatures like lamb and goat share the special trait of being some of the only animals that have a whole saddle that can be cooked for a small group of people at home. One saddle of lamb will feed 8-10, and a goat about 4-6, while a saddle of beef would feed about 50-60, and require large cooking setups to prepare.

Alan Bergo / Forager Chef

As meat roasting goes, cooking a saddle is pretty simple, but for easy slicing, it’s best to take out the backbone before you cook it. This also creates a cavity begging to be seasoned with a mix of fresh herbs. See below for a demonstration of removing the bone, and seasoning with fresh herbs and breadcrumbs.

Alan Bergo / Forager Chef

After your saddle is de-boned, seasoned and tied, it gets pan-seared, roasted or grilled to form a crackling crust, then cooked until medium or so, depending on your taste, then rested and sliced. Just like other roasts, there’s plenty of pan drippings for a great sauce, too — always a crowd pleaser.

For this basic recipe, I’m going to share a simple side of buttered turnips: an age-old partner to lamb and goat. If you have a local co-op, keep your eyes open for different varieties of turnips. Pictured are scarlet, gold, and purple-top, listed in order of the amount of sweetness each one has.

Alan Bergo / Forager Chef

Back to the saddle. The tricky part about cooking a saddle isn’t the prep or execution. It’s finding a whole, high quality saddle to work with in the first place. Large cuts can be a hard sell at grocery or butcher shops due to their size and unit cost. Plus, with saddles, butchers can often get a higher price per pound by selling lots of smaller chops as opposed to one large piece, so they don’t hesitate to break those saddles down.
As a chef, when I’m in search of lamb or goat I look to my favorite purveyor: Shepherd Song. They ship around the country, and their 100% grass-fed product is the best I’ve tasted. Browse through cuts of their carefully selected heirloom breeds, and have them shipped right to your door at www.shepherdsongfarm.com

Alan Bergo / Forager Chef

Herbed Goat or Lamb Saddle

This is a method for a roasted saddle and an optional side of buttered turnips. Serve with some cooked hearty greens or a salad for a complete meal.

If you don’t have a pan big enough to fit a saddle, you can brown it at 475F for 15-20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 250F until it’s finished cooking.

Equipment
• Sharp paring knife for removing the backbone from the saddle
• Butchers twine, for tying the roast

A goat saddle will serves 4-6 as an entrée, Lamb 8-10

Ingredients

• 1 whole lamb or goat saddle
• Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
• 2 ounces fresh herbs: I like a combination of equal parts rosemary, thyme, and sage, combined with some chopped Italian parsley, but other herbs like savory could also be used. You’ll need about 5 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs in total.
• 4 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs, preferably panko
• 1 tablespoon flavorless oil, like grapeseed or canola, for searing
For the buttered turnips (optional)
• 2.5 lbs turnips, the smallest you can find, peeled and cut into wedges, if the turnips are very large they could also be diced into cubes.
• 2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
• ¼ cup finely chopped shallots

Method

Prepping and seasoning the saddle

1. Before you remove the backbone from the saddle, put a small handful of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley on the cutting board and chop all of the herbs together at the same time until fine. Reserve the herbs for seasoning the saddle.

2. Referring to the pictures above, remove the backbone from the saddle, score the fat side in a crosshatch pattern lightly to help the fat render, then season on both sides with salt and pepper.

3. Lay the saddle fat side down and season with the chopped herbs, then the toasted breadcrumbs. Press the mixture down on the meat to help it adhere, then roll it up tightly, seam side down.

4. Tie the saddle tightly with butchers twine to ensure even cooking. Allow the saddle to come to room temperature before you start to cook it.

Cooking the saddle

1. Preheat the oven to 250º F

2. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan (a 12 inch pan will fit
a goat saddle). Turn on the oven hood, a fan, or open the window, as searing can make a little smoke and possibly set off your fire alarm.

3. When the pan is hot, sear the saddle deeply all over,about 10-15 minutes, removing fat from the pan as it renders that you can use to cook the turnips, if using. Either way, I like to remove fat as it gathers in the pan while searing to help cut down on any smoke.

4. When the saddle is deeply browned, place it in a roasting pan on a rack, or on top of some carrots or vegetables so the meat doesn’t directly touch the pan, which can cause the bottom to cook faster than the rest of the roast.

5. Cook the saddle in the oven until a thermometer reads 135, which will come out around medium from the low temperature cooking. Allow the saddle to rest in a warm place while you prepare the turnip, if serving.

Preparing the turnips (optional)

1. Increase the heat of the oven to 375º F

2. Put the rendered lamb fat in a large pan and heat until just smoking. Add the turnip wedges, season with salt and pepper to taste, then cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5-10 minutes. If needed, transfer to turnips to the oven to finish cooking.

3. When the turnips are just tender, add the shallots, and butter to the pan and stir to combine. Cook the turnips for 2 minutes more, double check the seasoning for salt, adjust as needed, then finally toss with the parsley and keep warm while you carve the saddle.

Carving and serving

When the turnips are done, transfer the saddle to a cutting board and slice with a sharp knife into 1 inch slices. Arrange the sliced saddle on a warmed platter surrounded by the turnips and serve immediately.

Nose to Tail Cooking: Lamb Head Cheese with Meat from Shepherd Song

Courtesy of Casey Pikula

This story is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm.

In the Old World, when an animal was butchered, every single part of it was used, leaving nothing to waste. That practice faded away with the advent of modern farming, which produced such bounty that cooks could afford to use only the best parts, tossing away the less-desired cuts.

Whether it’s nostalgia or a desire to waste less, the “nose to tail” movement is coming back in full force. Chefs are embracing cuts that might otherwise go to waste — including the head.

Casey Pikula, executive chef at Stem Wine Bar in Northeast Minneapolis, is one of those chefs. Pikula fondly remembers watching his maternal grandmother making head cheese, a cold cut that originated in Europe, from which her ancestors hailed. Pikula watched in awe as his grandmother split the skulls, boiled the heads, and peeled the meat from the bones, producing a dish he describes as “absolutely delicious.”

Courtesy of Casey Pikula

Before Pikula joined Stem Wine Bar, he was head chef at Red Stag Supperclub. As he brainstormed ways to refresh Red Stag’s charcuterie program, memories of his grandmother’s head cheese came rushing back. Pikula decided to recreate her recipe with a few new twists. Instead of using beef or pork, he opted for 100 percent grass fed lamb from Shepherd Song Farm in Downing, Wis. He infused the head cheese with Madras curry and added pickled Fresno chilies and preserved limes.

It took Pikula 10 lamb heads and two weeks to create four pounds of head cheese, but the labor of love was worth it. When the head cheese made its debut on Red Stag’s charcuterie menu, it sold out instantly.

There are many recipes available for head cheese, but Pikula didn’t use one. Instead, he felt his way through the process, which is documented below to inspire other “nose to tail” chefs to try it for themselves. “I don’t think chefs are really taking the nose to tail movement to heart,” said Pikula. “If you’re not making head cheese, then you’re letting this delicious meat go to waste.”

Pikula is excited to begin his next project, which will soon appear on Stem Wine Bar’s menu: Lamb Heart Pastrami, which uses meat from Shepherd Song Farm. “We offer so much more than lamb chops,” says the owner of Shepherd Song Farm, Judy Moses. “From racks, legs, and ground meat to shanks, organ meats, and heads, we offer a full selection of 100 percent grass fed lamb and goat meat for every recipe.”

Pikula chose to partner with Shepherd Song Farm because of their commitment to traditional, sustainable, and humane farming practices. Shepherd Song Farm’s sheep and lambs live on pasture in the open air and sunshine, where they are 100 percent grass fed. This results in lean and flavorful meat rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and beta-carotene. To place an order, visit www.shepherdsongfarm.com.

Courtesy of Casey Pikula

LAMB HEAD CHEESE
Photos and process provided by Chef Casey Pikula

Ten lamb heads from Shepherd Song Farm were used.

Step 1: The skulls were split and the brain and eyes removed. The brains were reserved for a terrine. The eyes were discarded.

Step 2: A rub was made with Madras curry powder, salt, black pepper, minced ginger, minced garlic, and minced preserved limes that had been created a month or so beforehand. The heads were rubbed with this mixture and left to dry in the cooler for three days.

Step 3: After drying, the heads were simmered in water for four hours, along with aromatic herbs and vegetables, to thoroughly cook all of the flesh, but also to make a stock that would be used later.

Step 4: When the heads were fully cooked they were removed and allowed to cool.

Step 5: The tongues were removed, and all the flesh was stripped from the skulls. The stock was strained and put back on the stove to be reduced to a demi-glace, bringing it down from three gallons to less than a quart. Half a dozen sheets of gelatin were added to the stock as lamb heads do not contain a large amount of collagen as a hog’s head would. This was necessary to form a cohesive loaf.

Step 6: The tongues were skinned and finely diced. They were added to the rest of the head meat along with pickled Fresno chili peppers, very fine preserved lime threads, and the reduced stock.

Step 7: The mixture was put in a pan and pressed with weights overnight. The loaf was pulled from the pan the next day and portioned for service.

A Tomato Salad of the Moment

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Maybe perfect tomatoes are meant to be worshiped simply — sliced and sprinkled with good salt, a few drops of real balsamic, and some torn basil.

That non-recipe has the best effort-to-benefit ratio I can think of. But around a decade ago, I first tasted an idealized version at Lucques, a restaurant in Harold Lloyd’s old carriage house in Los Angeles, and since then, when it’s tomato season (now) and I have the time (as often as possible), I make the amped-up salad (published in Sunday Suppers at Lucques and in a variation below). It’s a mix of as many varieties of the best heirloom tomatoes you can find, freshly made croutons, an herbal vinaigrette, and burrata to balance the acidity and add depth. It’s a cousin of the panzanella and the Caprese but really is something different.

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Preparation involves several steps, but none is difficult. The dressing holds the recipe’s flavor-boosting secret: garlic, oregano leaves, and coarse salt pounded to a paste. If you want to simplify, make the dressing and mix it with tomato wedges.

Now that burrata is made by BelGioioso in Wisconsin, it’s easy to find in the metro area. Burrata has a fuzzy history. It seems to have arrived in Los Angeles around 1993 with a cheesemaking immigrant from Puglia, Italy, where it originated in the last century (anytime from 1920 to 1970, depending on the source). The name means either “buttered” or “bag,” again depending on the source. I vote for buttered (burro is butter in Italian, after all). In any case, it’s a thin shell of mozzarella holding a filling of mozzarella scraps and cream. It’s best very fresh, so look for the latest pull date.

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

When your vines or favorite farmer present you with colorful, delicious heirloom tomatoes, consider this recipe, and have fun tearing bread into leaves, cutting open a mildly explosive ball of burrata, and relishing a perfect salad.

HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD WITH BURRATA, TORN CROUTONS, AND BASIL
Suzanne Goin
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Serves 6

⅓ pound ciabatta, levain, or baguette
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
½ clove garlic
1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ pint (6 ounces) cherry tomatoes
3 pounds large heirloom tomatoes (feel free to use more cherry tomatoes and fewer large tomatoes; go for a variety of colors and sizes)
Maldon or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh basil, rolled together and sliced (green and opal mixed is especially beautiful)
¾ pound burrata (look for the latest pull date)
½ cup thinly sliced shallots (optional)
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, rolled and sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Cut the crust from the bread and tear the insides into leaflike shards around 1½ inches long. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Squeeze the bread so it absorbs the oil. Bake until the croutons are light brown, but not necessarily crisp to the center. Watch carefully. This should take around 10 minutes.

3. Add the oregano, garlic and ¼ teaspoon of salt to a mortar and pound to a paste. Alternately, chop with a knife, occasionally running the knife over the mixture, mashing and flattening it. Place the paste in a small bowl and add the vinegars. Stir. Then gradually beat in 6 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Cut the large tomatoes into wedges and halve the cherry tomatoes. (Optional: I like to peel the large tomatoes, but this is not necessary. If the tomatoes are quite ripe, you can peel them without employing the usual technique of immersing them in boiling water for 10 seconds.) Place in a large mixing bowl. Add the optional shallots. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt, some grindings of pepper, and half the basil. Toss once or twice. Add about ¼ cup of the dressing and toss again. Taste for seasoning.

5. Add the toasted bread to the bowl and briefly toss the salad.

6. Turn the salad onto six plates. Cut each ball of burrata in half, or into 4 wedges, depending on size, and carefully arrange it around the edges of each salad. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining basil and the parsley.

The Perfect Arnold Palmer

James Norton / Heavy Table

This summer, it has slowly but inevitably dawned upon me that a scratch-made Arnold Palmer is the ultimate nonalcoholic summer beverage. It’s an ideal balance of sweet, tart, and astringent, and it has both depth of flavor and brute chugability. It brooks no challengers.

Chance circumstances resulted in the creation of the best-tasting Arnie Palmer I’ve ever slammed. While making a batch of the beverage for a grill-out, I used the fruit I had on hand: lemons, yes, but also a couple of ripe oranges. The mellow depth of the orange juice married perfectly with the earthiness of the black tea and bridged the ade and tea halves of the beverage creating the tastiest version of the drink I’ve had to date.

The recipe below will get you a good Arnold Palmer, but you may want to tinker with the proportion of tea to citrus-ade, and potentially add less sugar (this is a reasonably sweet recipe, and it could work with three-quarters or even half of the sugar, depending upon your tastes).

James Norton / Heavy Table

THE PERFECT ARNOLD PALMER
James Norton
Yield: 2 quarts

Juice from:
4 medium lemons
2 medium oranges

3 cups just-brewed black tea (I like Lipton loose-leaf Yellow Label tea, which you can find in most Indian markets)
4 cups water
1 cup sugar

1. Combine the fruit juice, ½ cup of sugar, and the 4 cups of water in a pitcher or bowl. Mix well.

2. Pour the hot brewed tea into a second pitcher or bowl along with ½ cup of sugar. Mix well and give it 10-15 minutes to cool down.

3. Add the citrus-ade to a larger pitcher (8+ cup capacity), and add some or all of the tea mixture. Taste for sweetness and balance, adding more tea and/or sugar as needed.

4. Refrigerate and enjoy.

Variants: You can add a handful of cut strawberries (4 or 5) to this drink, and you’ll be staggered by how much flavor they impart after a day or two in the fridge. It’s a really nice variant.

Garden mint is another optional addition, probably no more than 2 teaspoons finely chopped.

James Norton / Heavy Table

Chef Camp Recipe: Nettie Colon’s Charred Octopus with Grilled-Lemon Coriander Sauce

Chelsea Korth

This post is sponsored by Chef Camp and written by Chelsea Korth. Nettie Colón is a chef-instructor at Chef Camp Session 2 to be held Sept. 8-10 in the Minnesota north woods. Join us to experience her fireside cooking skills and stories in person.

Nettie Colón swings the screen door open with a “hello,” a big smile, and the offer of a glass of rosé. Her home is colorful and full of collections. I can see that the people who live here have traveled well and have stories to tell.

Chelsea Korth

Colón leads me outside to her lush back yard. Smoke clouds escape from her grill in a rolling stream, and she blows air into the center, testing the fire’s readiness. Tiny glowing specks of ash spray out like magic. She transfers onto the grill a halved red onion, two Hungarian wax peppers, a head of garlic, and two Roma tomatoes drizzled with olive oil. Flames jump around the vegetables, blistering the tomatoes and peppers and blackening the thin skin of the garlic. She adds the charred vegetables to a pot of boiling water.

Chelsea Korth

She demonstrates how to clean a whole octopus, then holds it inches over the rolling boil, the tentacles dangling, ready to dunk. Colón looks over at me with eyes that say, “Are you ready for this?” She submerges the octopus, and when she lifts the body out of the water, the tentacles have coiled into deep red twists the color of cooked lobster. She dunks the octopus twice more to tenderize the meat — the color turning more vibrant each time — before submerging it to simmer for another 45 minutes.

Chelsea Korth

While the octopus simmers, Colón creates her grilled-lemon coriander sauce, a combination of halved, golden-yellow lemons, grilled and hand juiced, toasted coriander seeds, honey, parsley, serrano chilies, and a thin stream of olive oil — blended until the mixture is smooth. The sauce is creamy and bright green when finished. She pours it into a clay bowl ready for serving.

Chelsea Korth

Once the octopus is cooled, she cuts each tentacle, at a diagonal exposing the white inner flesh. Just as she is about to put the tentacles on the grill, we hear thunder, and the trickle of raindrops quickly turns into a true storm. Colón grabs an umbrella and holds it over the fire, unfazed. She jumps back into a story about her upbringing in Puerto Rico, where she lived from the time she was four until age 15. Her expression softens as she remembers the summers she spent in Puerto Rico with her grandmother. Her playground was her grandmother’s land in Utuado, a mountainous region where coffee, passion fruit, mangoes, yucca, plantains, lemons, limes, oranges, and pineapple are grown. Everything Colón and her grandmother ate was made from what grew on the land.

The tentacles are now crispy on all sides, and the storm has rolled through as quickly as it came. We’re ready to plate. We gather the carefully crafted parts of the recipe and set the table as they do in Puerto Rican culture, where extra food is always ready for a neighbor who might stop by for a quick conversation. The anticipation of an extra guest has shaped Colón’s hospitality. “It is better to make the table longer than build a taller fence,” she says. She lives by this motto, and it’s her mission at her business, Red Hen Gastrolab. She believes that now — more than ever before — is the time to sit down at the table with neighbors and new friends from all walks of life.

Chelsea Korth

“In Puerto Rico,” she says, “we always shared what food we had with others. It is what we were able to offer each other. Where one can eat, two can eat. Where two can eat, three can eat, and so on.” The act of taking care of and being with each other provides the extra nourishment.

It was her memories of Puerto Rico, the Yucatan and Sardinia that inspired this dish. The blended flavors and techniques pay homage to her life, upbringing, and travels.

Rose Daniels

“I grew up eating octopus escabeche with my dad,” Colón says, “and on a trip to the Yucatan, I tried a preparation from a Mayan chef who charred octopus and adobo. I fell in love with the dish and learned that dipping the octopus before submerging and cooking it helps to tenderize the meat. I was also inspired by my recent trip to northern Sardinia, a region that pulls many of their flavors from the Mediterranean coast of Spain.”

The octopus is served family-style in a shallow, wide handmade pottery bowl. Tender green kale and boiled new potatoes are layered first, with the octopus tentacles over the top, a beautiful contrast of charred, deep-red skin and bright-white inner flesh. Colón drizzles the salad with her green lemon-coriander sauce, and we toast our humid, sweating glasses of rosé to each other, as new friends seated at a generous table.

Porcelain and stoneware dishes provided by the Northern Clay Center. Visit their gallery, or shop online, to fill your own table with handmade pieces from the top ceramic artists in the region.

Rose Daniels

CHARRED OCTOPUS WITH GRILLED-LEMON CORIANDER SAUCE
Nettie Colón
Serves 4

Charred Octopus:
3 oregano sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
2 Hungarian wax peppers, charred
1 head garlic, charred
2 Roma tomatoes, charred
½ red onion, charred
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
A 2-5 pound octopus (fresh, or frozen and defrosted)

1. Bring a large pot of water with all the ingredients except the octopus to a boil.

2. With the water at a rolling boil, hold the octopus with tongs and dunk it in the water, completely submerging it for 10 seconds. Repeat this 2 more times. The shock of the boiling liquid tenderizes the octopus. After the third dunk, leave the octopus in the pot to cook at a medium simmer for 45 minutes for an octopus of 2-3 pounds and an hour for an octopus of 4-5 pounds. Remove it from the pot, let it cool, and cut off each tentacle. (You can discard the head or use it.)

3. Once cooled, toss the octopus tentacles in olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Grill the octopus tentacles on one side until crisp. Flip, and repeat on the other side.

4. To serve, lightly coat the octopus with the Grilled-Lemon Coriander Sauce, and serve with grilled lemon halves atop roasted potatoes and kale.

Grilled-Lemon Coriander Sauce:
3 large lemons
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant, coarsely ground or crushed
½ cup parsley
⅔ cup olive oil
2 serrano chilies, stemmed and diced
2 tablespoons honey
Salt to taste

1. Cut the lemons in half and place cut side down on the grill until there’s a nice char marking on the surface of the lemon, 3-4 minutes. Flip and grill for 3-4 minutes more. Remove from the grill and cool completely.

2. Using a hand-held juicer, juice the lemons into a glass measuring cup. They should yield about ⅓ cup. Pour the lemon juice into a deep quart container and add the coriander, parsley, chiles, honey, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix with a hand blender, adding the olive oil in a thin stream and blending until the mixture is smooth.

Spicy Burdock Salad by Noah Barton of Delicata and Chef Camp

Kathy Yerich

This post is sponsored by Chef Camp. Want to learn more about Chef Camp? Come down to the Fulton taproom tonight (Wednesday, July 12) — the Chef Camp team will be hosting a meetup and answering questions. The first 10 people to come say hi will get a free Chef Camp T-shirt!

Burdock plants are stunningly common. They’re regarded as an invasive species, and they’re also potentially a side dish for dinner.

“I’ve lately become obsessed with burdock,” writes Noah Barton. Barton is the camp cook for Chef Camp (he’ll be at both the Sept. 1-3 and Sept. 8-10 sessions), and is opening the Matty O’Reilly/J.D. Fratzke restaurant Delicata later this summer. “It’s an invasive species that is highly edible, so we can feel good about pulling it out of the ground by its roots. The whole plant is edible, even the burrs when they are young, although I’ve honestly only tried eating the root.”

“You can find it just about everywhere, I’ve been pulling it out of the yard at my mom’s house in Inver Grove Heights, but I see it all over in the parks in my neighborhood, especially around Minnehaha Falls.” (Editor’s note: Burdock can’t be removed from public land without a permit.)

“Burdock leaves basically look like rhubarb, but they aren’t as shiny as rhubarb leaves. They almost appear fuzzy. The roots can be really hard to get out of the ground, but they look like long, skinny white carrots when you do get them out. The flavor is slightly grassy, not unlike a woody version of a parsnip.” In its first year burdock is short, like rhubarb. In its second year, burdock growth has annoying burrs that catch on your clothes or get stuck in your dog’s fur. Those are the seeds that spread the plant everywhere. The roots are edible from both first- and second-year plants, but are smaller and more tender on first-year plants.

Barton adds that the recipe is an opportunity to make good use of an invasive species, and that if you’re hiking somewhere where its harvest is legal, it could be an ideal foraged food from the trail.

“One could make the dressing ahead of time and then head out with a shovel in tow,” he writes. “Upon returning to their campsite [foragers] could quickly peel and shred the roots using just a vegetable peeler and blanch them in boiling water before marinating. It’s like ‘one less thing to pack’ salad. Of course, you could also add other vegetables, carrots, cabbage, or whatever to the mix.”

Kathy Yerich contributed to this story.

SPICY BURDOCK SALAD
Noah Barton
Serves 4

12 ounces burdock root
¼ cup rice wine vinegar (seasoned)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
½ tablespoon sambal oelek
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Combine rice vinegar, sesame oil, sambal, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, and salt and mix well. Set aside.

2. Wash burdock root well. Using a vegetable peeler, remove outer skin.

3. Use vegetable peeler to cut burdock into thin strips.

4. Blanch burdock in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, or until just tender.

5. Place blanched burdock into dressing mixture and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Pickled Asparagus with Juniper and Fennel from Savory Sweet

Mette Nielsen

This post is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Press.

“Let’s dispense with the usual old notions of preserving,” Beth Dooley suggests, leading us into Mette Nielsen’s kitchen, where Old-World Danish traditions meld with the freshest ideas and latest techniques. Their approach in the cookbook Savory Sweet: simple preserves from a northern kitchen combines the bright, bold flavors of Nordic cuisines with an emphasis on the local, the practical, and the freshest ingredients to turn each season’s produce into a bounty of condiments.

University of Minnesota Press

PICKLED ASPARAGUS WITH JUNIPER AND FENNEL
From Savory Sweet
Makes 2 1½-pint (24-ounce) jars

Unlike most recipes for pickled asparagus, this one does not call for blanching the stalks before brining, so they retain their snap and fresh flavors. Note that the color will change from vibrant green to olive. The juniper adds a nuanced peppery-piney note, while a little fennel seed gives a licorice scent.

Seek out tall 24-ounce jars to hold the stalks upright; otherwise, standard wide-mouth pint jars will work. You can eat the leftover trimmed stalks at your next meal.

Wait at least a week before enjoying this pickle to allow the flavors to marry. The jars will keep several months in the refrigerator.

Vegetables
1 to 1¼ pounds asparagus
4 large garlic cloves, quartered lengthwise
2 teaspoons juniper berries
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Brine
1¾ cups water
1¾ cups cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1. Wash and trim the asparagus to fit in your jars, allowing for a half inch of headspace.

2. Wash the jars, lids, and bands in very hot soapy water, rinse them well, and place them upside down on a clean towel to drain.

3. Divide the asparagus between the jars. (We like putting the tips up.) Distribute the garlic, juniper berries, fennel seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and crushed red pepper flakes between the jars.

4. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the hot brine over the asparagus.

5. Cover each jar with a square of wax paper slightly larger than the jar opening, fold in the corners with a clean spoon, and push down lightly so some of the brine comes up over the wax paper. Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth or paper towel, add the lids and bands, and finger tighten the bands.

6. Label the jars. Cool completely and tighten the bands before storing in the refrigerator.

Quick Ideas
These tall, delicious spears make an edible stir stick for classic cocktails like Bloody Marys and Gibsons. The pickle’s light juniper flavor pairs nicely with both vodka and gin. This pickle is also delicious layered into a grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwich. Substitute pickled asparagus for the green beans in a nicoise salad, and whisk a little of the pickle brine into the vinaigrette.

Tripod-Roasted Lamb Leg

Shepherd Song Farm
Shepherd Song Farm

This post is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm. A version of this recipe will appear in the upcoming Chef Camp cookbook.

This recipe features a leg of lamb roasted on a tripod over an outdoor fire pit. The fire pit can be easily constructed. Ideally, the pit will be one to two feet deep with earth or other sides to keep in the heat. Build a large fire of hardwood and charcoal. The smoke from fruit wood, such as apple or cherry, will add additional flavor. Continue feeding the fire for about three hours before cooking, so that you develop a deep bed of hot, glowing embers. The leg should be basted about every 15 minutes throughout the cooking process. The surface should not be allowed to burn while it develops a consistently dark, rich glaze. Alternately, the lamb leg can be slowly roasted in the oven.

The Buddha’s hand used in this recipe is a type of citron. It has a sweet, lemon blossom aroma and has no juice or pulp. The pith is not bitter, so the fruit can be zested or used in its entirety.

Shepherd Song Farm
Shepherd Song Farm

Tripod-Roasted Lamb Leg
by Chef Ben Spangler

1 shallot, minced
1 ounce tarragon, chopped
1 ounce parsley, chopped
3 Thai chili peppers, sliced
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
zest from 1 Buddha’s hand citron or zest from 3 lemons
2 ounces red wine vinegar
1 acorn or other squash
1½ cups chestnuts
1 head garlic (optional)
4 sprigs rosemary, chopped
1 small bunch thyme
1 whole leg of lamb with shank
Olive oil
¼ cup ricotta cheese
1 ounce micro greens
Salt and pepper

  1. For the brine: In one cup add 4 Tbsp salt, minced shallot, red wine vinegar, chopped tarragon, parsley, Thai chilis, 1 Tbsp cayenne, 1 Tbsp oregano, zest of one Buddha’s “finger” or three lemons and pour enough water to fill to the brim.
  2. Slice acorn squash ¼″ thick. Score each chestnut without cutting into the flesh.
  3. Shell garlic and chop into small chunks.
  4. Roughly chop the rosemary and thyme.
  5. Make shallow diagonal slits across the leg of lamb, and then slit in the other direction in a crosshatch pattern.
  6. Rub generously with salt and pepper.
  7. Insert garlic cloves (optional), rosemary, and thyme sprigs into slits.
  8. Lightly dust roast with oregano and cayenne pepper.
  9. Use a large meat hook to pierce through the top half of the shankbone and two muscles to ensure a strong hold.
Shepherd Song Farm
Shepherd Song Farm

Roasting on the Tripod:

  1. Hang the roast on the tripod over the fire.
  2. Make certain coal or wood is evenly distributed and not too hot, as leg needs to roast slowly.
  3. Add coals as necessary.
  4. Spatter the roast with brine every 20 minutes, a few teaspoonfuls at a time on all sides.
  5. Rotate the roast, if possible.
  6. Roast the chestnuts until they crack open (about 15-20 minutes), while turning to prevent burning.
  7. Pan-roast slices of acorn squash on low heat until cooked through. Reserve.
  8. When lamb leg reaches 120-130⁰F in the center of the muscle, remove from heat.

Roasting in the oven:

If using an oven, cover the roast with foil and roast at a low temperature. At the end, turn the oven to high for 10 minutes to brown and crisp the surface of the lamb.

Shepherd Song Farm
Shepherd Song Farm

Finishing and Serving:

  1. Serve straight from the fire. The outside of the leg will be more well done than the inside. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to determine that the meat is cooked to the desired level of doneness.
  2. Flash-heat squash slices in a hot pan before plating.
  3. Arrange squash on plates and season with oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Garnish with ricotta cheese, micro greens, red wine vinegar, zested Buddha’s hand and roasted chestnuts.
  5. Thinly slice lamb.
  6. Drizzle each serving with ½ teaspoon of brine.
  7. Serve.

Lamb Loin Roast: Herbed and Rolled

 Ben Spangler
Ben Spangler

This recipe is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm.

The lamb loin, also called a saddle, contains meat from the three most prized cuts, equivalent to the T-bone, porterhouse and tenderloin in beef. The famous tenderloin lies protected under the backbone and is a very small strip. The loin meats are delicately marbled, with an elegant flavor that brings a note of luxury to any meal. The fat of grass fed lambs should taste clean and fresh.

In this recipe, the backbone will be removed (see steps in video) leaving the meat to be rolled and tied before grilling. The result is a very tender roast, easy to carve and with a minimal amount of fat. With no bones and a nice cylindrical shape, can be easily sliced into medallions and served. It is perfect to enhance a special occasion.

LAMB LOIN ROAST: HERBED AND ROLLED
Photo, video, and recipe by Ben Spangler

1 Loin roast untrimmed (or loin saddle)
2 leeks
20 fingerling potatoes
1 small sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke)
1 garlic clove
1 shallot
a large handful each of sage, rosemary, and parsley
1 cup watercress
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil or enough to coat the pan
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare the herbs:

1. Remove large stems from herbs and finely chop leaves. You should have about 6 tablespoons of mixed herbs. Set aside.

2. Chop and mince garlic. Finely dice shallot. You should have 1 teaspoon of each. Set aside.

3. Discard green parts of leeks, and thinly slice remaining whites into small rings. Set aside.

Prepare the roast:

1. While preparing the loin roast, boil potatoes on medium heat until tender. Drain potatoes and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Trim extra fat from the bottom of the loin. Remove tenderloins (on both sides of the backbone) and retain.

3. Using a boning knife, separate the backbone from the loin eye. Do not separate the 2 halves at the center of the backbone. Then carefully remove the backbone from the meat resulting in 1 boneless piece of meat (see boning video).

4. Season the inside surface with salt, pepper, 5 tablespoons of the chopped herbs, and the shallots and garlic. Roll and tie with 100 percent cotton string. Season the exterior with salt and pepper.

5. Grill lamb saddle with indirect heat, and move coals as needed to allow a consistent temperature and good caramelization. Slow cook — don’t rush.

6. When the internal temperature reaches 120°F for rare or 130°F for medium to medium rare, remove from grill and allow to rest.

Finish and Serve:

1. While meat rests, heat a cast iron skillet.

2. Cut the cooked potatoes in half.

3. Set the pan over a medium high heat source. Add olive oil to the pan to coat. Add a tablespoon of butter, and sear and caramelize the potatoes. Add the remaining tablespoon of the herb mixture, the leeks, and salt and pepper to taste, and slowly cook the mixture.

4. When leeks are tender, add the last tablespoon of butter and then add watercress. Using a vegetable peeler or mandoline, slice the sunchoke onto the potatoes. Mix together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Drizzle meat and potatoes with additional oil and fresh parsley.

For a visual overview of the full recipe, please see our video on YouTube.

Holiday Leg of Goat Recipe by Shepherd Song

Courtesy of Geoffrey Blythe
Courtesy of Geoffrey Blythe

This story is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm.

This recipe, provided by chef Geoffrey Blythe using Shepherd Song’s goat meat, practically guarantees tender and delectable results, with the mild flavor of the meat enhanced, but not overpowered, by the marinade and rub.

Why try goat meat? Environmentally, goats move gently across the earth while delicately browsing. They do not adapt well to factory farm environments, so meat goats are seldom if ever raised using intensive and medicated methods.

Similar to deer, goats thrive on brush; they browse, turning foods humans cannot digest into valuable protein from meat and milk. The meat of young goats is delicate and succulent without the stronger flavors of venison or the fat layers of lamb. Goats have readily adapted to a variety of environments from deserts to tropics to highlands.

A goat perched on an apparently inaccessible cliff is a common image. Goats survive in environments where vegetables shrivel, even with irrigation. Their digestive systems are designed to break down brush, leaves, and grasses and to extract value from them. Poison ivy, young burdock, thistles, nettle, box elder leaves — all those things considered negative in your yard or garden, are highly nutritious to goats. And of course, goats love flowers, too. It is hard for them to resist the taste of a tender blooming rose, and thorns do not deter them.

Because of their unfussy habits and the flavor of their meat, goats are an important meat source for diverse cultures throughout the world. Goat meat is generally preferred for special occasions such as weddings, births, and coming-of-age ceremonies, even when other meats are readily available at a lower price. What do these cultures know that we don’t?

Holiday Leg of Goat
Photos and recipe provided by Chef Geoffrey Blythe
Cooking time: 1 hour
Prep time: 45 minutes

2 pounds boneless or bone-in goat leg
⅓ cup white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon Cinq Baies (a mixture of white, black, and green peppercorns plus pink pepper and either Jamaican pepper or coriander)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon fenugreek seed
½ teaspoon Black mustard seed
1 teaspoon poppy seed
½ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
4 spring onions, chopped
3 scotch bonnet peppers, stemmed and seeded
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 lime, juiced

1. Rub the meat generously with salt and pepper. Place in a large marinating bag with the white wine vinegar, and allow it marinate for 45 minutes.

2. Combine all the whole spices in a heavy-bottomed pan and toast over high heat for 2 minutes, or until they begin to pop. Remove from the pan. Add the nutmeg and cinnamon.

3. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind and mix well.

4. Add the spring onions, peppers, salt, soy sauce, and lime juice to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse till everything is chopped finely. Add the spices and pulse a few more times to mix well.

5. Remove the meat from the vinegar, and gently wipe off any excess vinegar. Coat the meat with the spice mixture, and return to the marinating bag Place in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.

6. Remove the meat from the refrigerator, and allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 300°F, and prepare a hot grill, if desired.

7. Over high heat, or on the grill, lightly char the marinade and sear the outside of the meat. Transfer the roast to a baking sheet with a wire rack and place in the oven. Cook to an internal temperature of 140°F.

8. Allow the meat to rest, and slice thinly.

Minnesota-Grown Ginger: Can Pineapples be Far Behind?

ginger-stones-throw-sign
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

It’s almost October and the farmers markets are beginning to wind down. Zucchini and tomatoes are on the wane. Who would expect to see a vibrant, new food at the stands of three producers at the Mill City Farmers Market?

Meet fresh ginger in all its fragrant, magenta-tinged glory. This ginger is tender, virtually without fibers, and very hot. You can find it at the Stone’s Throw and Seven Songs booths for the next few weeks ($15-$16/lb), and Stone’s Throw expects to have enough to sell at the Mill City indoor markets this winter.

melissa-ginger-seven-songs
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Melissa Driscoll of Seven Songs Farm in Kenyon, MN (above) is the pioneer of local ginger. She first learned that the spicy rhizome could be a cold-climate crop in 2011, while reading Growing for Market, a magazine she swears by. The article was written by the owners of Old Friends Farm in Amherst, Mass. It detailed the successful growing method they devised with the help of a Federal Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant.

This is Seven Songs’ third year growing ginger, but their first year selling it at Mill City.

Driscoll explains that growing ginger in the Upper Midwest is not easy. Even receiving the seed is a challenge. Seed ginger is shipped from Hawaii or North Carolina in February. It has to be specially packaged because it can’t survive at temperatures below 50°F. Any ginger can be broken into pieces and sprouted, but as with potatoes, having stock that is certified to be disease free gives the farmer greater certainty of success.

Trout Gougeres by Tricia Cornell of Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook

Courtesy of Tricia Cornell
Courtesy of Tricia Cornell

The rising tide of the local food movement has renewed interest in the farmers market, an ancient institution that at one point seemed doomed by the industrial-powered glory of the modern supermarket. Between 2002 and 2013 in Minnesota, we’ve seen the number of markets explode from 45 to more than 150. They’re scattered throughout the state, in the urban centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in suburban parking lots, and in the town squares of places as geographically diverse as Crookston, Lanesboro, and Ely.

“There are farmers markets absolutely everywhere,” says Tricia Cornell, author of the newly released Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook: A Guide to Selecting and Preparing the Best Local Produce with Seasonal Recipes from Local Chefs and Farmers (Voyageur Press, 2014). “It’s become a more normalized way to shop. And if I had my druthers, people would treat their farmers market more like they treat their grocery store. And right now, a lot of people treat it like their Saturday morning entertainment — which is cool, but it’s less sustainable for the farmers.”

Cornell is a regular contributor to the Heavy Table and the author of Eat More Vegetables: Making the Most of Your Seasonal Produce (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012). She brings an expert’s eye to the seasonally driven tornado of produce available at farmers markets from spring through late autumn.

“I think a lot of people go to the farmers market wander around and see what looks good, as opposed to the grocery store, where you may say, ‘I’m going to the familiar green beans,'” says Cornell. “When you go to the farmers market, you’re open to more things. And there’s a seasonality to the food, so the farmers market makes you pay attention to something other than the changing color of the leaves when it comes to seasonality.

The book works as a collection of recipes springboarding off of Minnesota’s seasonal bounty, but it goes deeper than that, framing the conversation about food that all of us, knowingly or not, initiate when we shop at farmers markets for our dinner. “In each section I include a list of things to ask your farmer about. You can’t necessarily assume that everything’s organic, for example,” says Cornell. “But you can go up and have a conversation: ‘You organic? Why not?’ And you might find out that they believe in organic principles but they can’t afford certification. And you can find out how people raise their chickens, and where their sheep live, and where their trout come from, things like that.”