TASTES OF THE SEA­SON

Ev­er­greens and herbs in­fuse mains and desserts with sea­sonal flavours, adding fes­tive notes to hol­i­day din­ing.

Food & Drink - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Christo­pher St. Onge

In­fuse mains and desserts with fes­tive ever­green and herbal flavours, sen­sa­tional for any hol­i­day din­ner party.

THIS YEAR, don’t just dec­o­rate your ever­green—eat it too! Thyme, sage and rose­mary are so com­mon­place in our kitchens we rarely give them much thought, but they, along with laven­der, ju­niper and bay are ev­er­greens with culi­nary cre­den­tials. There are more that are worth con­sid­er­ing though—some eas­ily plucked from the trees around us, even here in the cold of win­ter.

Cedar is vir­tu­ally ev­ery­where in On­tario, of­ten planted as a pri­vacy hedge, but a few sprigs can be mag­i­cal in a caramel driz­zled over baked ap­ples. Bal­sam too is a culi­nary won­der—it tastes noth­ing like resinous pine or rose­mary nee­dles as you might ex­pect, but in­stead of candy and cit­rus—a win­ning ad­di­tion to a tart fea­tur­ing candied man­darin slices. Like­wise, spruce tips are sur­pris­ingly sweet but with a mild piney flavour too—per­fect for an aro­matic roast of pork on a blus­tery win­ter’s day.

If you’re for­ag­ing your own be sure it’s from a pris­tine source and hasn’t been sprayed with in­sec­ti­cides (as Christ­mas trees usu­ally are), oth­er­wise pur­chase dried or fresh from a re­li­able wild foods pur­veyor like Forbes Wild Foods (wild­foods.ca.).

LAMB ON A BED OF HERBS

This sim­ple recipe uses a bun­dle of ever­green herbs you’re al­ready fa­mil­iar with—thyme and rose­mary. Those of you with green thumbs likely know that nei­ther plant sheds its leaves and that both re­main green over­win­tered in­doors. Roast­ing the lamb racks on a bed of herbs fills the house with in­cred­i­ble smells, and the crisped rem­nants of the herbs help flavour the pan sauce too.

Gen­er­ous bunch rose­mary

Gen­er­ous bunch thyme

½ tsp (2 mL) fen­nel seed, lightly crushed 2 cloves gar­lic, finely chopped

4 tbsp (60 mL) olive oil, di­vided

Salt and freshly ground black pep­per 2 racks lamb chops, 8 ribs each

SAUCE

½ cup (125 mL) red wine

½ cup (125 mL) beef or lamb stock 2 tsp (10 mL) red­cur­rant jelly

1 tbsp (15 mL) but­ter

Salt and freshly ground black pep­per

1 Pre­heat oven to 400°F (200°C).

2 Chop enough rose­mary to mea­sure 2 tsp (10 mL) and enough thyme to mea­sure 1 tbsp (15 mL); set re­main­der of herb bunches aside. Add chopped herbs to a small bowl along with the fen­nel seed, gar­lic and 3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil; sea­son with salt and pep­per.

3 Heat re­main­ing 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil in a large oven­proof skil­let over high heat; sea­son lamb and brown on all sides, about 6 min­utes to­tal. Re­move skil­let from heat and lamb to a board, fat-side up; brush lamb with herb mix­ture.

4 Ar­range re­main­ing herb sprigs in the hot pan, evenly dis­tribut­ing. Lay racks over herbs do­ing your best to avoid crowd­ing lamb. Roast for 20 min­utes for medium-rare. Re­move lamb to a board; tent with foil. Ar­range cooked herbs on a plat­ter, leav­ing be­hind any small bits of crisped nee­dles or thyme leaves that re­main in the pan. 5 Re­turn skil­let to stove­top over medium heat; pour red wine and stock into pan, bring to a boil and re­duce by two-thirds. Whisk in jelly. Re­move from heat, add but­ter and stir un­til melted. Sea­son with salt and pep­per.

6 Serve lamb on bed of herbs with sauce along­side.

Serves 4 to 6

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