Smoked Lamb Shoulder
With stuffed Jerusalem artichokes, which are neither from Jerusalem, nor actually artichokes, but have a fantastic origin story.
Welcome to another issue of Le Cordon Bong, a newsletter about recreating Michelin star meals at home. You can get in touch with me via the comments or by email. All of the previous content is up on the website (which I personally find to be a more enjoyable reading experience than the email format).
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Week 11, vol. 1
Setting the Table
Spring has arrived (well, sort of, ignoring that it’s snowed two days this week), and with the change of seasons, we’re moving to a new cookbook - Rogan, by Simon Rogan.
Simon Rogan is one of the stalwarts of modern British cuisine, best known for L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, which opened in 2002, garnered its first Michelin star in 2005, and was awarded a second star in 2013. He holds three other Michelin stars at Rogan & Co. in Cartmel, Roganic in London (temporarily closed), and Roganic in Hong Kong, and previously held a star at his restaurant Fera at Claridge’s1 (the only one of his restaurants I’ve dined at). Prior to L’Enclume, Rogan trained at a number of restaurants across the UK, and also had a 2-year stint at the three-starred Lucas Carton in Paris, under the late Alain Senderens2.
My process with a new cookbook is to go through every single recipe from cover to cover, sort them into lists of ‘Things I Want to Make’ and ‘Things I Can Actually Make’, and then hope there is some overlap between the two. I also scrawl brief notes such as ‘this looks ridiculous so obviously I’ll have to make it’ and ‘I’m not quite sure where to source 250g of duck gizzards’. The most common note, however, is ‘HE/LF’, which is short for ‘High Effort / Low Food’.
Rogan is a rather different proposition to the Hand & Flowers book we’d previously been exploring. In accordance with Simon Rogan’s whole ethos (he literally set up a farm just to supply his own restaurant), it’s very ingredient-forward, with chapters split by ingredient type - Herbs, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, Dairy, Fruit. Unlike the H&F book which is built around large, multi-component courses, Rogan is largely comprised of individual dishes, so I expect to mix and match recipes in most weeks.
Recipes have clearly been simplified for the home cook - there’s no use of sous vide or iSi foam guns, despite Rogan being a self-confessed technophile and one of the early adopters of sous vide (his initial sous vide setup was an electric footbath used in elderly care homes).
That said, there are still plenty of challenging recipes - for instance, under the Raw Scallops with Vinegar Gel, Scallop Bouillon, and Gooseberry Tart with Scallop Roe, I’ve written the note ‘*this* is the level of culinary painfulness I’m looking for’. So we have that to look forward to.
There’s also a 4-week recipe to make home-cured lamb bresaola that I’m 100% going to make (and hopefully won’t poison anyone with).
If you’ve been here before, skip ahead! For the benefit of first-time readers, write-ups are structured thusly: (1) Amuse-Bouche - the history and provenance of the dish; (2) Starters - an intro to the fancy Michelin version of the dish I’ll be cooking; (3) Main Courses - the actual cooking process; (4) Desserts - thoughts and conclusions on what worked, what didn’t, and most importantly, what tasted good; (5) Petit Fours - footnotes and references.
Easter has just passed, which means it’s the season for eating lamb here in the UK.
Except that it actually isn’t.
Because lambs are born in the spring, and reared for several months, which means peak lamb-eating season is really summer to autumn. The majority of the lamb you see at the supermarket this time of year is imported from New Zealand.
Only a few breeds of sheep in the UK naturally lamb in the winter (some are given oestrogen to induce an earlier season). Early season lambs are also fed differently, because there isn’t much grass in the winter for them to forage on, resulting in a milder flavour compared to peak summer lamb.
The second main ingredient featured this week is the Jerusalem artichoke, aka sunchoke or sunroot, and oh boy do I have a story for you.
Jerusalem artichokes are the root of a sunflower species native to North America (not Jerusalem), and cultivated widely across the world today. The name allegedly comes from a corruption of ‘girasole’, the Italian word for sunflower, used by Italian settlers in the United States to describe the plants.
We’ve cover many outlandishly implausible food origin stories3 in this newsletter, but ‘Americans mispronounce foreign word’ sounds like a legitimate origin story that I can get behind. The artichoke part of the name comes from, uhh, the fact that they taste quite a lot like artichokes.
Meanwhile, when Jerusalem artichokes were brought to the Old World, the French and Italians decided to go completely off-piste and name these things ‘topinambour / topinambur’, after a small Brazilian coastal tribe called the Tupinambá, who neither cultivated nor ate Jerusalem artichokes (although they did eat other humans).
From here, there are two equally absurd origin stories:
The first story goes that in 1613, the French explorer François de Razilly brought 6 members of the Tupinambá to a young Louis XIII and his mother, the queen regent Marie de Médicis as a ‘gift’ (read: slaves). The Tupinambá became a spectacle in fashionable French society, and synonymous with anything exotic and exciting. Around the same time, the French had begun to eat Jerusalem artichokes, so some enterprising salesmen decided to rebrand them as ‘The Vegetable of the Tupinambá’, and the name stuck.
In the second story, a member of the Tupinambá tribe visited the Vatican in 1615 while a sample of Jerusalem artichoke was on display at the same time, which seems like an odd choice of exhibit (hey kids, let’s go to the museum to see the artichokes!). Anyway, because they were both exotic and on trend, it was somehow decided they should… just have the same name? Am I the only person who finds this ridiculous?
A final fun fact - despite being native to North America, some Native Americans were apparently not a fan of the Jersualem artichoke (which they named panhi / pangi), because it can cause excessive flatulence - a slight problem when you live in a tepee.
Thankfully this week’s recipes aren’t as ridiculous as those origin stories. I started off wanting to make a lamb dish (despite my lengthy diatribe about how this isn’t actually the right time to eat lamb), and thought the Jerusalem artichokes would make a nice seasonal pairing - the flower garnish made me think of spring and there’s the whole Mediterranean vibe that loosely ties together lamb and goat’s cheese. It most definitely had nothing to do with the log of goat’s cheese sitting in the fridge that I’ve been trying to get rid of.
Smoked lamb shoulder
The recipe started with a 20% brine for 24 hours, which I thought was exceedingly aggressive on the salt, considering my joint of lamb was 1.4kg, half the size of the 2.8-3kg specified in the recipe. I adjusted to 10% for 16 hours, as the last thing I wanted to do was spend a day and a half preparing an inedible slab of pickled lamb.
The smaller the cut of meat, the higher the surface area-to-mass ratio, which means salt will permeate much faster. Smaller cuts are also obviously thinner, which means the salt is going to penetrate deeper, resulting in higher saturation of salt compared to a larger cut (the salt won’t fully penetrate the larger cut in just 24 hours).
Ordinarily, I’d bust out my barbecue smoker for a dish like this (and I’d be surprised if that isn’t what Rogan does at the restaurant), but in an effort to stay true to the recipe, I smoked it home-style in a foil-wrapped roasting tin with wood chips. It was actually pretty easy, although some of the wood chips burned onto the tin, which took forever to clean.
From there, it was a very straightforward low-and-slow roast in the oven at 130°C for 4 hours until tender, just like any other slow-cooked lamb shoulder recipe. I couldn’t source any lamb bones that day, so I replaced the lamb jus with an enriched chicken stock and butter reduction sauce using the technique from my Treacle-cured Chateaubriand.
Jerusalem artichokes and goat’s cheese mousse with truffle
Relatively simple preparations here as well. The Jerusalem artichokes were baked in the oven until tender, halved, and hollowed out. There was the slight issue of me only having one oven, given the lamb was roasting at 130°C, while the recipe for the artichokes specified 160°C (I should really, really learn to read recipes in advance).
You’ll see in the process pictures above that I wasn’t quite able to cleanly scoop out the flesh — like an actual artichoke, there’s a ‘heart’ in the centre that’s softer and cooks faster than the outer edges — my lower cooking temperature was likely the culprit here.
I made a truffle vinaigrette by reducing chicken stock with Madeira wine and sherry vinegar, then slowly blending in truffle and hazelnut oil. This was folded into the Jerusalem artichoke flesh to make a sort of truffled artichoke mash.
Moving on to the goat’s cheese mousse. I tend to get a little nervous whenever I see a recipe for mousse (in my opinion, it’s just one of those things that demands perfect execution, otherwise don’t bother). This clever little recipe leans heavily on the creaminess of goats cheese by blending it until smooth, and then loosens up the texture with cream. Just two steps, and that’s it!
From there, it was a simple matter of frying the artichoke skins to make little cups, stuffing the respective sides with truffled mash and mousse, and garnishing with some edible flowers.
Rogan calls specifically for micro green mustard leaf, viola, marigold and dianthus (this is going to be a common theme in this book). I don’t have a garden, let alone a farm, so I used whatever I could get my hands on, i.e. a box of ‘edible mixed flowers’ which I *think* were tagete, viola, and bean blossom. 1 out of 4 ain’t too bad.
So, that really wasn’t too difficult. The entire house was filled with the aroma of roast lamb wafting throughout the afternoon, so that was a nice added bonus.
The tasting notes:
The lamb was like a really fancy shawarma ( I mean this in a good way - I love shawarma - and all kebabs for that matter). The spice rub really came through in a pronounced way - we could clearly pick out the smoke, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander seed, and star anise, which complemented the natural richness of the lamb fat.
The meat itself had soaked up all the rendered lamb fat thanks to the 4-hour cook time, and was ever so juicy and falling off the bone - it was so meltingly tender that I actually had to use a couple of pancake spatulas to transfer it from the baking tray.
The Jerusalem artichokes were simply beautiful to look at (flowers make everything prettier), with the flavours to match. There’s a *lot* going on - the earthy tones of the Jerusalem artichoke mixing with the warmth and roundness of the truffle, the richness of the Madeira, and the creamy sweetness of the goat’s cheese mousse. I was worried that the flavours would get overcrowded, but it worked in total harmony - one of those foods where you keep wanting another bite and never want it to end.
Not bad for a first cook. I’m excited to mess around and make a few tweaks to the Jerusalem artichokes for my recipe adaptation (they’re still happening - sorry I haven’t written one for the past two weeks!). Sadly, I’ll probably sub out the edible flowers as I don’t really expect anyone to bother sourcing them. With the lamb, I’m thinking about bringing in some of my Texas barbecue techniques to shake things up. It’s gonna be fun. Until then, happy cooking!
Petit Fours (aka the footnotes)
Fera closed at the end of 2018. That space has been taken over by Daniel Humm’s Davies and Brook, which I also really like - it’s basically Eleven Madison Park Lite.
Alain Senderens famously renounced his three Michelin stars at Lucas Carton in 2005, citing the pressure of the ratings game and exorbitant prices. He closed it down, pared back the menu and frills, and renamed it Senderens. Michelin promptly ignored him and awarded the restaurant two stars the very next year. The restaurant was subsequently sold in 2013 and reverted back to its old name of Lucas Carton. It currently holds one Michelin star.