There’s a new lamb guru in Vail
VAIL, Colorado In Colorado, “lamb guru” isn’t a title to anoint lightly. Wednesday evening, Joe Ritchie from Grouse Mountain Grill earned the designation with his Smoked Lamb Leg Pastrami at the Fourth Annual Lamb Cook-Off in Vail Village.Second place went to Chef Kyle Cowan and his team from Up the Creek with their Lamb Cheese Steak. Rahm Fama from Wildflower took third for Lamb Lollipops with Sauce Verde and Goat Cheese Creme Fraiche.”It’s fun, that’s why we do this,” said Matt Wadding, sous chef at Up the Creek, which entered the contest for the first time this year. The event, which kicked off the 18th annual Taste of Vail culinary festival, drew crowds beneath a smoky haze along Gore Creek Drive. So many people attended that the event had to close before 6 p.m. instead of the scheduled 6:30, since all but four or five restaurants had run out of lamb, event organizer Jana Morgan said. Though each chef was given the same amount of lamb to work with – 10 legs, donated by the Denver-based American Lamb Board – it wasn’t enough for the hungry masses. “I don’t have sauce, I don’t have anything,” said Juan Cruz Anon, executive chef of the French Press, which ran out of lamb halfway through the event. Many attending the event were enthusiastic about the offerings from the 20 different restaurants that participated. The People’s Choice Award went to Beano’s Cabin for their Gingerbread Spiced Lamb Potstickers with Mint Syrup, but many different restaurants got rave reviews. “We come to the Lamb Cook-Off every year,” said Vanessa Cinti, sommelier at Spago, whose favorite lamb selection was La Tour’s Red Wine Lamb Sausage. “You see all the locals.” Since the event was free to attend and each lamb and wine sample cost $2, it was a good way to introduce people to the Taste of Vail, said cook-off chairperson David Sanchez. “It kind of entices them to go to more of the events,” he said. “The chefs enjoy the competition, too.” For many locals, the cook-off was a way to celebrate with friends near the close of the ski season. “It’s much more of a local’s event,” agreed Vail residents Sally Ireton and Cindy Petrehn, who attended with several friends. “I love lamb; my husband doesn’t, so it’s the perfect time for me to taste it,” Ireton said. The wide range of recipes presented also pleased the panel of eight judges who selected the winners. “We’ve seen a lot of really cool dishes so far,” said Jennifer Jasinski, chef and owner of Rioja and Bistro Vendome restaurants in Denver. “We haven’t seen anything be redundant in any way.” But for the chefs, the event wasn’t just about new recipes, bragging rights and prizes, which included a 42-inch plasma television for first place, a laptop computer for second place and an iPod for third. Many of them are friends, Anon said, so the Lamb Cook-Off was also a chance to catch up after a long, busy winter. “It’s a very friendly competition,” he said. “It’s a treat for us.”
Smoked Lamb Leg ‘Pastrami’Grouse Mountain Grill1 leg of lamb with bone removed1 bulb minced garlic1 shallot, minced3 fresh bay leaves3 tablespoons black peppercorns5 tablespoons kosher salt2 whole cinnamon sticks1 teaspoon cumin3 sprigs fresh thymeGrind the bay leaves with the spices in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder until fine. Combine the ground spices with the salt, minced shallot, garlic and thyme. Stir this mixture well and coat evenly on the pieces of lamb leg. Let the lamb sit overnight. The following day, rub the excess spice mixture off and place on a smoking rack. Smoke for approximately one hour on the lowest possible temperature using apple wood or a mild-flavored hard wood. Finish cooking the lamb for 10 to 15 minutes in a 180-degree oven. Let the lamb cool overnight. Slice thinly.Rye Gougeres14 cup rye flour1 cup all-purpose flour1 tablespoons salt5 whole eggs1 cup water1 tablespoon molassesMix the salt with the flours. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, molasses and butter and bring to a boil. Add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and stir for two minutes until the mixture forms a ball and the excess moisture has evaporated (if the ball forms more quickly, continue to cook and stir for a full two minutes). Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse the dough ball five times. Add five eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter has a smooth, silky texture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a plastic piping bag halfway full with the batter and pipe the batter into quarter-sized mounds on the baking sheets. Ensure that there is an inch or two between the mounds. Bake at 450 degrees for six to eight minutes or until the gougeres puff and hold their shape. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes to a light golden brown color.Carroway Mustard1 tablespoon caraway seeds12 cup Dijon mustard1 tablespoon ground mustard1 tablespoon brown sugar1 teaspoon fresh dill, choppedMix the dry and Dijon mustard with the sugar, dill and caraway. Let this mixture sit overnight so the flavors meld.Quick KrautShredded carrotsShredded Savoy cabbageCider vinegarSugarWhite pepperSea saltBlanch the carrots and cabbage separately for 10 seconds. Shock the vegetables in ice water to stop the cooking. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and add the vinegar. Let the mixture sit out over night in an airtight container. Refrigerate for 12 hours before serving.
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