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