The Ladies' Tea Guild

Friday, August 21, 2009

Baking for my mommy!

It's my mom's birthday today, but she's stuck in First Aid and CPR training classes all day. I usually make breakfast for her on her birthday, but since she didn't have time to eat breakfast today, I'll be doing the birthday breakfast tomorrow, and probably also cooking dinner for the family when they come over. I'm also making the cake today. My mom requested a chocolate cherry cake, and a raisin and cream cheese bread pudding -- both of which recipes are at her house -- but for dinner, I'm using a recipe from her mother's 1943 cookbook.

My mom's family is Sicilian, but she grew up in the Central Valley around tons of other Mediterranean people, and one of the dishes that became a tradition in our family is actually Armenian. There used to be an Armenian deli in a nearby town, and they made the most delicious, tender lamb shish-kabob, which we always had -- alongside the pasta and garlic bread -- with the turkey, ham or whatever holiday food we were eating for as long as I can remember. When the owner decided to retire and close the deli, we asked to buy the recipe from them but they wouldn't sell it, and we've been trying to re-create the flavor and tenderness of this lamb dish ever since! We've got the flavor pretty close, but the tenderness is still elusive.

Well, in my grandma's cookbook is a recipe for Skewered Lamb with a marinade that sounds similar to the one we've been trying to re-create. If I tweak the marinade recipe a bit and marinate the meat overnight, hopefully it will work. It would be better if I could marinate the meat for a few days, but I hope that the trick will be cooking the meat at a low enough temperature, for 30 minutes. Here's the recipe:

Skewered Lamb
Shish kabobs (skewered lamb) are made by putting 4 to 5 cubes of marinated lean lamb on long metal skewers and grilling 30 minutes or longer. The night before the barbecue, the meat from a leg of lamb (about a 5-pound leg) should be trimmed of fat and gristle and cut into 2-inch cubes. Put in a large bowl and mix with a sauce made by blending 1/2 pound onions, peeled and sliced, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 cup sherry wine, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon regoni.

I don't have any regoni, which I've never heard of but I assume is a cooking herb or spice. I notice that there's no rosemary, garlic, or mint in this recipe, and I know that it was part of the marinade for the shish-kebab that I ate as a child, so I'll be adding it -- plus more black pepper -- to this recipe. I don't know if my mom has sherry, so I'll be adding some other red wine, but I have high hopes for this vintage recipe!

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)