Saturday, December 31, 2005

Grilled Leg Of Lamb With Rosemary, Roasted Pears, and Black Pepper Polenta

Unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner was a little more adventuresome, but not by much. Those in attendance -- my parents and brother David's family -- all enjoy a good leg of lamb, especially one that's roasted over a fire.


Have your butcher butterfly the lamb for you. I added the juice from one lemon to the oil and garlic mixture.

1 head garlic, cloves removed and peeled
2 fresh rosemary sprig, needles stripped from stem, plus 8 sprig
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
5 to 7 pound leg of lamb, boned butterflied and surface fat removed
Salt and pepper
8 red-skinned pears
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 fresh rosemary sprig
Black Pepper Polenta, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a blender, combine the garlic, rosemary, and 3/4-cup of oil; season with salt and pepper. Puree until everything comes together to form a paste; set aside for a few minutes to let the flavors marry.

Lay the lamb out flat, open like a book. Score the surface lightly with a paring knife. Rub the lamb with the garlic paste, being sure to get in the incisions. Roll up the lamb and tie with butcher's twine to hold the roast together.

Prepare an outdoor gas or charcoal grill. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper, and then place it on the hot grill (put it on the top rack if you are using a gas grill). Sear the outside of the meat, turning, until brown all around, but do not char. Close the grill cover and roast for 30 minutes. The lamb is done when the center is still pink and the internal temperature reads 135 degrees. Allow the lamb to stand 10 minutes to let the juices settle before cutting off the twine and slicing.

To prepare the pears, halve the pears lengthwise and cut out the cores. Place the pears face down on a baking pan. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of oil, toss the 8 rosemary sprig on top, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pears are fork tender.

To serve, spoon some polenta on the base of the plate and lay a few slices of the lamb on top; drizzle with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Put a pear on each plate, face up, and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.


2 quarts chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups polenta or yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock and salt to a boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal in a slow steady stream. The liquid will be absorbed and the cornmeal will lock up; don't freak, just whisk through it. Lower the heat and continue to whisk until the polenta is thick and smooth, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and butter; continue to stir until incorporated, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, fold in the Parmesan and black pepper and serve.

This recipe by Tyler Florence was adapted from the Food Network website.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Now that the holidays are over ...

Now that the holidays are over and we’re tired of leftover turkey (okay, I still have a zipper bag in the freezer), it’s time to move onto broader culinary delights.

We had to wonderful meals this year. Turkey and all the fixin’s for Thanksgiving and lamb for Christmas. Both meals were roasted to perfection on the Webber kettle barbecue.

Tradition was the watch word last month for a large family Thanksgiving. With some 20 in attendance, the Karoly-Enriquez clan enjoyed a meal that was repeated in thousands of homes across this great land. Mashed potatoes, stuffing with rustic mushrooms, giblet gravy and German red cabbage complimented a 15-pound roasted tom turkey and honey-baked ham.

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since childhood. As a kid it was mostly about the food. We always had oven-roasted turkey. Over the years, Dad roasted the heavy bird (always in the 20- to 22-pound range) on his no-name, non-descript barbecue rotisserie (you know, the kind with a half-dome hood that held the spit and motor).

Karoly Thanksgivings have rarely been used as R&D sessions. Mom prepared mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy from the same family-tested recipes year after year. Good food was always placed on the table through my 18 years of home life.

One family custom always bothered me. In later years, each person at the table was asked to express what he or she’s thankful for. I don’t remember when this annual ritual started. Knowing my mother, it goes back to the 1950s or my grandmother’s table.

I have much to be thankful for -- a beautiful wife, three children who love the Lord, a son-in-law who loves my daughter and the most beautiful granddaughter on earth. The though of expressing all this in front of my siblings sent terror through my veins. I’d usually mutter, “I’m thankful for my life and please pass the gravy.”

As I said to the family this year before the blessing, I have a lot to be thankful for -- prime among that is my salvation in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. A wife who is a “fellow heir of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7); children who, after much discipline and instruction (Ephesians 6:1-4), have named the name of Jesus; and a 2 year old granddaughter who can recite “Jesus Loves Me” in toddlereeze all bring tears to my eyes. There’s much more -- like home and job -- all of which can be lost at a moment’s notice.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad

I rode in the cab of Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad yesterday on the downgrade trip from Bear Mountain.

After the climb to the summit -- an eight percent grade at times -- I was taking pictures of the two-truck Shay locomotive. I was under the mistaken impression that the Dixiana was an old West Side Lumber Co. Shay. I asked the conductor, but directed me to the engineer.

So I walked over to Tom the engineer as he inspected the train for the return trip to the depot. Tom told me that the RC&BTNGRR #1 locomotive came from the east and that it had five or six pervious owners before Roaring Camp purchased it in the early 1960s. (The WSL Shay that's owned by roaring camp is the former West Side #7.) I had confused Roaring Camp with the Yosemite line, which owns two WSL Shays -- #10 and #15.

I introduced myself to Tom as one of the guys who's renovating the Diamond & Caldor Ry. No. 4 in Placerville. In discussion, it was evident that Tom was very knowledgeable of the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation's effort to restore the Four-Spot to its former glory.

Tom motioned me to follow him around the train as he made his inspection (and picked garbage up). We talked. He has seen the West Side & Cherry Valley Ry. parlor and combine cars that EDWRF is restoring. And he knew of the Michigan-California Lumber Co. 0-4-0 Poter locomotive in the yard of the museum.

I followed Tom to the rear of the train and up the fireman's side as we talked. By the time we had passed the first passenger car I had a sense that he was going to invite me into the cab.

A hot, greasy rattletrap -- that was my first impression of the cab ride. When I commented on the heat that radiated off the boiler head, Tom said, "You should've been in here on the uphill trip!" It made me appreciate the intermittent wafts of cool mountain air. The cab must be unbearable in the summer, I thought.

As a railroading novice, I find it hard to describe the trip to the depot. Tom and Doug worked in unison, rarely speaking except to discuss restoration efforts at Roaring Camp. The only command Tom gave was, “Open 'er up, Doug.” Doug responded with no more than a grunt as he jumped into action, turning valves.

Nor can I explain Tom's actions as he led the 93-year old Shay off the mountain. The geared locomotive never got above a walk, even when Tom fed steam to the three verticle engines. The weight on the engine and low gear ration restrained the train from its natural inclincation to run down the hill.

In all, I spent 20 to 25 minutes in the cab of the Shay. It's a ride that I'll repeat again. For the next trip, I'd like to learn the duties of the fireman and engineer. It will be a much more rewarding trip if know what they were doing.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Spicy Polenta Lasagna

The El Dorado Western Railway Foundation held its annual Christmas party and pot luck dinner last Thursday. We offered spicy polenta lasagna, made from Italian sausage and store-bought polenta. Spicy polenta lasagna is adapted from an Associated Press recipe in the October 19, 2005 Sacramento Bee Taste section.


Use a 12-inch Dutch oven for a double recipe.

8 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 (14-1/2 ounce) diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons butter
1 (18-ounce) tube prepared polenta, cut into 1-2-inch thick slices
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook sausage until well-browned in 10-inch Dutch oven medium heat. Break up sausage as it cooks. (Remove casings from meat first if using links.) Remove sausage to bowl.

In drippings remaining in Dutch oven, cook onion until softened over medium heat. Add to bowl with sausage. Stir in tomatoes and their liquid, hot pepper sauce and parsley.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet. Cook polenta, half at a time, until browned on both sides. Repeat with remaining butter and polenta slices. Set polenta aside on plate.

Spoon half of the sausage mixture into Dutch oven. Top with half of polenta slices and half of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat layer again, ending with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Serves 4.