Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lamb Loaf with Harissa Yogurt, Fresh Veggies, & Naan

So let's talk about these lamb sliders from yesterday.

J and I split the order of three at Five Mile Stone on 85th and Second a few weekends ago. The worst thing about them? There were only three. And I only ate one and a half. They were outrageously delicious. They came topped with very thinly sliced red onions, feta cheese, and harissa aioli. One spice in particular really shone through the gorgeous mix of flavors in the ground lamb - cumin. I knew that my Five Mile Stone-inspired lamb dish would definitely include it.

The next morning while drinking coffee and catching up on emails, I had Food Network playing in the background. Alton Brown, Jedi Master of food, put on an entire Good Eats episode about lamb. The culinary gods smiled down upon me and my lamb loaf meal was born.

You start off zapping a diced onion in the food processor and then squeezing all of the liquid out. Use of your NYC skyline tea towels optional, but beware - this process gave me the WORST Onion Eyes of my life. After a solid wringing out, I put the onion back in the food processor with 1 ¼ pounds ground lamb, two diced cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon ground cumin (Alton asks for marjoram here), 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. And to aid in my whistling while I worked, Pandora on the iPad in the background.

You pulse all of this until everything is very finely chopped and it starts to come together in a sticky lump. Then, put the lump into a loaf pan and mush it with your hands until it fills all the corners and the top is generally flat. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 60 - 75 minutes (this was closer to 60 since there was less meat than in the Alton recipe). I'd honestly planned this as a weeknight meal but thankfully read the recipe front to back when making a grocery list. When we get into the "bake for an hour plus" range, I bumped it to the weekend. Once it's out of the oven, let it cool briefly, and then pour off any excess fat. You can see how much the lamb shrinks up when it cooks.

Not the prettiest, but the kitchen smelled incredible. While the lamb cooked, I prepped the rest of the spread. At Five Mile Stone, they served the sliders with a harissa aioli. I turned this into a harissa yogurt - one cup of 2% Greek yogurt and a heaping tablespoon of harissa paste. It wasn't hot spicy, but just added some peppery zing to the already tangy yogurt (if you want it spicy, clearly just add more harissa). For freshness, I de-seeded and diced a cucumber and tomato. Lastly, once the lamb came out of the oven, I popped two pieces of garlic naan into the oven to warm up a bit. I love the pillowy, chewy dough and thought it would be perfect with this meal.

It was.

I tried to make a little pizza-style bite: rip off a piece of naan, spread some harissa yogurt on top, lay on a forkful of sliced lamb, pile on the veggies, and try to bite without dropping it all over the place. You wanted all of these components in every bite - they brought out the best in each other.

My first reaction? “Yum.”

My second reaction? “Mhmmmhhmmmm, mmm, mmmmhmm, mhmm!” (Translation: "This is so $#!&@ delicious!" while chewing.)

It was the most dense and delicious meatloaf I've ever eaten. The cumin gave it such a juicy flavor that played with the tangy, peppery yogurt. The whole dinner really contained all the basics for my perfect meal: rich, hearty meat; fresh vegetables; a flavorful sauce; and carbs. We had leftover lamb and veggies the next day and they were wonderful to snack on cold for lunch.

Not only will I certainly making this loaf in the future, but I'll definitely order the Five Mile Stone lamb sliders again (and again)!

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