Restaurant Kelly Liken wins Vail Lamb Cook-Off |

Restaurant Kelly Liken wins Vail Lamb Cook-Off

Caramie Schnellcschnell@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyCharlotte DeChant, left, and her daughter, Susanna Dechant, 17, share a seat with an Albert Einstein statue while they eat lamb from the Lodge at Vail Thursday during the Taste of Vail Lamb Cook off in Vail Village.

VAIL, Colorado -Lamb fans crowded Gore Creek Drive in Vail Village Thursday for Taste of Vail’s kick-off event, the fifth annual Lamb Cook-Off. Under bluebird skies, attendees noshed on lamb done up several different ways – in sausages, bratwurst, a tamale, tacos and more.In the end, Vail’s Restaurant Kelly Liken took first place in the competition with sous chef Hunter Smith’s creation – lamb confit wrapped in grilled ramps and served atop kataifi, or shredded phyllo dough. Spicy harissa, a North African hot chili sauce, and an Italian maraschino cherry finished off the dish.”I’m doing great,” Smith said shortly after hearing the news. “It’s the fourth year I’ve competed in this event and its really nice to finally walk away with the win.”Smith spent days prepping for the event, he said, which was apparent to people who sampled the entry. “That dish was definitely the most sophisticated dish,” said Jay Cheshes, a New York City restaurant critic and one of eight people who judged the competition. “It was thoughtful and original.”Second place went to Ocotillo for its lamb tamale topped with jicama slaw and flanked by green chile. “The tamale was the one dish that I definitely wanted to finish,” Cheshes said. “That says a lot.”The Lodge at Vail took third place and also won the people’s choice award with its lamb pastrami sandwich with creme fraiche-goat cheese-lime coleslaw. The sandwich was served on a rye bun made by Avon Bakery. Tiny mint mojitos were handed out with each plate.Lodge at Vail Executive Chef Rahm Fama explained his arduous technique, which he called “a classical spin on pastrami.””I pickled the meat in a combination of salt, sugar and a bunch of spices and then let it sit in a vacuum-pack machine for 24 hours,” he said. “Then I put it in an immersion circulator for four hours, smoked it for another three hours and then sliced it.”Entries were judged on taste, originality and presentation. For more information on Taste of Vail events, visit

For one leg of Lamb:Herb Cure: 2 cups salt2 cups sugar20 sprigs thyme 1 bunch parsley8 bay leaves1 sprig rosemary20 pepper cornsMethod:1. Using a food processor puree herbs then add one cup of sugar. Puree until smooth, then fold into remaing salt and sugar. 2. Rub all cure onto lamb. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours to cure3. After 24 hours cure time rinse all cure off lamb and pat dry with towel.4. In a pot large place lamb leg and cover with duck fat. Ensure that the leg is completely submerged with fat. Add a sprig of rosemary and 10 sprigs of thyme to the fat to flavor the meat during cooking.5. Cover pot and place in a 200-225 degree oven for 6+/- hours. Confit until the lamb is fork tender.6. Cool lamb in duck fat overnight. 7. Reheat lamb in fat in the oven (300 degrees) until all the fat has melted and lamb is warm in center. 8. Remove from fat and allow to drain and rest on a rack for a few minutes.9. Slice thin against the grain and serve.Harissa paste6 oz tomato paste2 oz garlic2 oz canola oil3 oz roasted red peppers (cleaned, peeled, and seeded)1 oz guajillo pepper.2 oz whole cumin.2oz whole coriander.2 oz cardamom pods1 ea zest and juice of 1 lemonTo taste salt and pepper Method:1. Combine oil, spices, garlic and chilies cook on low heat for 15 min.2. Add Tom paste, lemon juice and zest and Honey, increase heat until tomato is slightly caramelized.3. Cook for 5 min stirring constantly.4. Puree in blender until smooth and press through a tamis.5. Season with salt and pepper. For the ramps:1. Toss in salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.2. Grill for 30-45 seconds and serve.For the katafi (shredded filo):1. Generously pour melted butter on a baking sheet. Spread Katifi over the butter.2. Gently toss katafi in butter3. Sprinkle Salt and pepper and bake for 3-5 min at 325 or until golden brown.4. Break in pieces being careful! It is very fragile!!5. Garnish dish with katifi and petite lemon balm.- Restaurant Kelly Liken

Braising techniqueApproximately 10 boneless legs of lamb.24 ounces roasted vegetable base (1.5 containers).5 quarts Water6 cups Fresh Orange Juice1 quart Apple Juice1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar2 bunches Fresh Rosemary (8 each 12″ inch sticks)2 bunches of Fresh Thyme2 cups Whole Peeled Garlic Cloves2 Tablespoons Whole Black Peppercorns5 large Yellow Onions (cut like you would for onion soup)4 Tablespoons Sweet Paprika2 cups Tomato PasteMethodSeason and brown (salt & pepper), the lamb. Add the aromatics spices, onions, garlic and deglaze the pan with the orange juice, reduce by half (Total time: 30 minutes).Dissolve & dilute (use a whip), the tomato paste and the roasted vegetable base Use the remaining liquids (water, apple juice and vinegar). Add this mixture to the reduced orange juice and bring to a boil. Turn your braising liquid down to a low simmer for about 30 minutes.Transfer the braising lamb to the ovenRemove your lamb from the liquid and transfer them to a large roasting pan (rotate the top layer to the bottom). Remove most of the herbs and larger pieces of debris from the braising liquid and place it on top of your lamb. Whisk the braising liquid to emulsify all the ingredients that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Adjust the consistency with water if necessary (do not salt). Pour the braising liquid over the lamb, cover tightly with two layers of foil and continue braising in the oven.Braise in the oven for 3 hours at 375 degrees. Check after 2 hours to be sure you have enough braising liquid. If the foil is not sealed well, the liquid will reduce faster. You may have to add a couple of cups of water.Total cooking time is about four hours. Be sure the meat is fork tender. Let the meat cool overnight, in the braising liquid for best results. If the meat seems to be falling apart or is over cooked, let it cool completely before you try to move it, or remove it from the pan. When completely cool, the meat will bind and firm up, so that it is easier to handle.Ingredidents10 braised and cooled lamb legs1 gallon large diced onions2 gallons shredded potatoes blanched (shredded hash browns)1/2 quart Ocotillo Steak Sauce …or A-11/2 gallon Chicken Stock1 gal pureed green chili (see recipe)1 gallon Reduced Braising Liquid (Reduced by half)24 bay leavesSalt and pepper to taste1 gallon Hatch green chileMaking the meat mixture:Pull the (chilled), braised lamb, toss with the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Roast in a large roasting pan at 350 degrees until all excess moisture has reduced. While baking, stir mixture every 20 minutes or so to mix in the (caramelized), “crust” that forms on the top.When the lamb gets to the proper consistency, scoop it into a clean hotel pan and let it cool down.Hatch green chile:3 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil2 cups chopped yellow onions cup chopped garlic2.5 cups AP Flour (make a roux)6 lbs. Frozen Hatch Green Chilies (2 bags) cup Chicken stockAdjust consistency (Water)Add Black PepperSalt if necessary.Method:Sweat onions and garlic in olive oil. Make a roux. Add the rest of the ingredients and adjust the seasoning with S&P. Adjust the consistency and let stew for 20 minutes on low simmer.Jicama slaw1 ea jicama (sliced thin and julienned)1 ea carrot shredded8 ea radishes (sliced thin and julienned) cup chopped cilantro1 ea red onion julienned cup fresh lime juiceSalt and pepper to tasteMethod:Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate at least 4 hours prior to serving.Masa:4 lbs maseca 4 cups duck fat 1 gal chicken stock6 tbsp paprika6 tbsp garlic powder2 tbsp cumin seeds6 tbsp chili powder6 tbsp saltMethod:Mix all ingredients together by hand. Cover with damp cloth to avoid masa drying out. Soak husks in warm water for at least 5 minutes. Follow the pictures below to assemble the tamales. Tamales should be steamed for about 50 minutes.- Ocotillo, Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and Spa

Ingredients• 2 tablespoons black peppercorns • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons dried thyme • 6 bay leaves, crumbled • 2 teaspoons whole cloves • 1/4 cup minced garlic • 2 teaspoons whole juniper berries, plus 1/3 cup crushed juniper berries • 16 cups (or 4 quarts) water • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar • 3/4 cup kosher salt • 1 lamb leg (about 4 to 5 pounds) • 2/3 cup coarsely ground black pepper DirectionsIn a small mixing bowl, combine the peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, garlic and whole juniper berries. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the water, brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and add dry spice mixture and steep for 1 hour. Place the lamb leg in a glass or plastic container. Pour the seasoned brine to cover the lamb completely. Cover and refrigerate for 3 weeks, turning the leg every couple of days. Preheat the smoker. Combine the crushed juniper berries and ground black pepper in a small bowl. Using the palm and heel of your hand, press two thirds of the berry and pepper mixture into the brisket. Press the remaining mixture into the other side. Place the lamb leg in the smoker and smoke for about 4 hours. Remove from the smoker and cool for 30 minutes. Place the lamb leg in a large Dutch oven, cover with water and place over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for two hours. Remove from the pan and cool completely. Slice into thin slices and serve.- Lodge at Vail

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