Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lamb Shoulder Steak with PantryTzatziki Sauce and Tortellini

Alright, so you are on a tight budget, and yet you invited someone over for dinner.  You have pretty  much only pantry meal items to use for your big dinner, and you want to impress your guest.  Perhaps you are a single person, not truly confident with your culinary skills, but still, you want to impress your guest, though you are on a tight grocery budget.  No sweat, I've got you covered!  This is a flavorful meal you can prepare and serve in less than 45 minutes.  Now, don't forget to dress to impress!

Let's started!  Now, I used lamb shoulder steaks for this recipe for two reasons.  One, I love lamb and next, it was on an insanely good sale, so I could not pass it up!  I wanted to dress it up because, indeed, my budget is frighteningly tight, a Budget Pantry Meal, for sure, but I wanted to dress it up for my guest. So, out of the freezer I pulled my package of tortellini (sausage and cheese) and I brought my lamb shoulder steaks to about room temperature.  When cooking meats, searing, frying or grilling, you want the meat to be at room temperature; if it is frozen in the center, it will cook nicely on the outside but still be frozen or far too raw on the inside.  In addition, if you place cold meats in the screaming hot skillet or pan, it will seize up and not release its sugars to caramelize the meat properly. For sure, it will cook very unevenly.  Armed with that knowledge for the future, let's get to the ingredients we need now. 

Lamb Steak Seasonings
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon 
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried ground mustard or mustard seed

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for each side of the lamb steak.

You could use fresh herbs - rosemary, tarragon and thyme - to add to and mix with your dried seasonings when done grinding them.  I confess, I use an electronic spice grinder (that looks just like a coffee grinder) for large projects, such as rubbing large slabs of ribs with my spice rub for grilling, but I like to use my little marble mortar and pestle for smaller spices jobs.  I did that for this meal. If you do not have a grinder of some sort, no sweat.  The spices will still work fine.  Like I said, I have you covered, here.

Now, drizzle one side of the lamb steaks with evoo and add a tablespoon of the spices to the steak and rub it on gently.  Flip the steaks and repeat.  Let the steaks sit for a bit to come to room temperature.  We will get back to them.  

Before we get any further, start bringing two or three quarts of water to a boil in a medium sized pot.  Have your salt nearby the pot.  

In addition, preheat the oven to 350-degrees.  If you have an oven safe skillet, you will use that to finish off the lamb steaks after searing them.  If you do not have an oven safe skillet, take out a baking pan and place a cooling rack in it (if possible).  If not, a baking pan lined with foil will be fine.  Spray it with non-stick spray and set it aside for now. 

Now, add a small drizzle of evoo to a skillet over medium-high heat.  You will want to turn the hood vent fan on high.  When the oil begins to ripple and slide around the pan like water, add the steaks, placing them away from you.  Let the lamb steaks sizzle and smoke for about three minutes.  If the steaks do not release from the skillet after three minutes, they are not done releasing their sugars; let them finish. Try again in about two more minutes.  When meat is ready to release, it will do so on its own, either in a hot skillet or on the grill.  When they release, turn them over, again, away from you first. You can reduce the heat to medium after a minute.  The skillet will remain hot for several more minutes.  By the time it cools to medium, the steaks will be ready to either be removed to the oven or to be placed on the rack in your baking pan. 

Place the oven safe skillet or the pan into the oven and let the lamb steaks finish off slowly there. No longer than fifteen to twenty minutes. Now, onto the pasta sauce!

You will need just a few main pantry and fresh ingredients to make a simple but incredibly flavorful tomato based pasta sauce for the tortellini. Keep watch over the water.  It should be ready soon!  

 Pasta Sauce Ingredients
1 28-ounce can of crushed or tomato puree
1 teaspoon tomato paste 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1/4  yellow onion, finely chopped
1 level tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon paprika
1 round of the sauce pan extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
salt and pepper
1- 2 tablespoons red wine Vinegar
*fresh herbs, oregano, basil and thyme, that you grow or have on hand.  This is not a requirement.  Just tasty!  Finely chop the oregano and thyme.  Tear the basil, which is traditional.

Add a drizzle of evoo the sauce pan, one round will do, over medium-high heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the onion and stir or toss it well. Add a little salt and pepper.  Salt helps the onion "sweat", releasing its sugars and enables the cooking process.  Allow the onion to saute about three minutes until the it begins to turn translucent.  Add the garlic and toss or stir well.  After about two minutes, in which time the aromatics will beautifully live up to their name, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and the red wine vinegar. Stir to incorporate well.  Soon you will notice bubbles up through the thick tomato sauce. Add the dried Italian seasoning and stir in thoroughly.  Reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer.  

By now, the water is at a roiling boil.  Add a liberal amount of salt, at least two tablespoons, stir, and add the tortellini.  Stir the pasta quickly before it has a chance to stick to the bottom of the pot.  Now, I should mention that I had purchased sausage and ricotta tortellini, but there are many, many fillings for them;  you should purchase them with a filling that you like.  In fact, you can use whatever your favorite pasta is for this sauce or dish.  It is all up to you to make it your own!  Boil the pasta according to the directions of the package or box.  Some tortellini take only three or four minutes.  The rule of thumb is, when they pop up to the surface, they are done and ready to be removed.  I use a pasta scoop to remove them from the water.  Add the past to the sauce pan and toss the pasta with the aromatic, flavorful sauce. Turn off the heat to the sauce.

The night before, if possible, or before starting any of the above, you can make an impressive fake-out pantry tzatziki sauce, an incredibly flavorful traditional Greek sauce for many lamb dishes.  It incorporates yogurt and fresh dill and vinegar and other herbs. If you do not have yogurt and fresh herbs available, we can make a fake-out version of it using pantry items.  Using either half a cup of mayo, yogurt or, if all else is unavailable, Ranch dressing, add dried dill, crushed fennel seed or fennel pollen (I know, we All have that on hand, right?), rosemary and, if it's at all available in your frig, diced fresh mint.  Add a drizzle of white vinegar and whisk thoroughly.  Set into the refrigerator and allow to cool and the flavors to marry. However you made this, you just dressed it up to appear and taste beyond regular Ranch dressing!

Time to plate.  Add a good portion of the tortellini to the center of your plate, add grated or shaved parmesan to the pasta, and place the lamb shoulder steak partly atop of the pasta, more leaning on the pasta.  Drizzle with the pantry tzatziki sauce and garnish the dish with any fresh herbs you might have.  Adds flavor and beauty to your Budget Pantry Meal. 


Time to serve!!!

 One last view.  Thank You for your time and consideration!!!  
Now, GO COOK SOMETHING for someone you love!