Diana’s Birthday Lamb

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Cooking a big meal for a friend’s birthday is something that I enjoy, especially when that friend is Diana. But, inevitably, the party will end, the dishes will be stacked in the sink and, most devastating for a food blogger like me, there will 1,000 pictures of the meal in my camera and I’ll feel an overwhelming duty to blog. Especially when I spent the time to make Suzanne Goin’s chorizo-stuffed lamb from “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” a recipe that Goin herself deems the most difficult in the book; I know my readers will want to hear about it. But the pictures have been on Flickr now for weeks and just the idea of taking you through this whole dinner, step by step, fills me with dread. Do you really want to know how it all went down, to the last detail? Aren’t you happy just to look at that pretty picture of Diana with those pretty flowers? Can we leave it at that? No? FINE, I’ll blog all about it. But first: Diana has a play debuting this week at Brown University called “Girls on the Clock”! For ticket info, click here. To see Diana’s birthday lamb, click ahead!

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Ok, I admit, it’s a gorgeous lamb. You want to know how I made it.

But here’s the deal: despite all the labor that went into it–going to the butcher to buy a deboned, butterflied leg–marinating it over night with garlic and rosemary and other herbs:

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And then stuffing it with a chorizo stuffing which wasn’t really a chorizo stuffing because I couldn’t find Mexican (uncooked) chorizo so I substituted it with hot Italian sausage cooked with smoked paprika;

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Despite all this effort, I stupidly overcooked the lamb!

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I know, I know, it looks pretty and pink but I wanted it RED. And it wasn’t nearly as juicy as it should’ve been. And the Romesco potatoes with homemade Romesco sauce–a sauce made of dried chiles and toasted bread and tomatoes–was too lumpy for my taste. I know I’m beating myself up too much (especially since everyone claimed to love the food!) but look at all the steps that went into the sauce and the potatoes and see if you don’t share my frustration that they weren’t sheer bliss…

First I soaked the dried chiles:

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Then I fried the bread in the skillet:

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Then I fried the soaked chiles:

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Then I added tomatoes:

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Then I blended the bread with toasted nuts:

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Then I added the tomato mixture:

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Then I drizzled in one cup of olive oil while it whirred until it became a sauce:

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Actually, it was a really flavorful sauce. It had a really deep, toasty, resonant flavor. But somehow when it was poured into a frying pan with Yukon Gold potatoes that’d been roasted in the oven, squished with my hands and fried with oil it became a lumpy mess:

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Still, the guests ate it up. Look how happy they are!

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An unqualified hit was the salad I served at the start: endive with a creamy lemon dressing.

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It’s a fun dressing: you do the normal combo of shallots, lemon juice and olive oil but then–here’s the twist–you add cream. It works wonderfully with endive, you should try it.

And the dessert, I admit, was also quite good. Strawberry shortcakes made with cornmeal, served with macerated strawberries and mint:

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So I suppose my trepidation in blogging about Diana’s dinner was really a reflection of my own perfectionism, how I wish every course were a bonafide hit. I do think, however, that one’s degree of satisfaction with a meal one cooks (what’s with all this “one” crap?) is a direct ratio of effort expended to the gastronomical payoff. And here, with this meal, I felt like all my efforts didn’t necessarily pay off.

But what am I saying? This was Diana’s birthday dinner and she loved it. And isn’t that the only thing that matters? Of course it is. So happy belated birthday Diana (it’s been more than a month) and break a leg this weekend with your play! If you win a Pulitzer, there’s a better, rarer leg of lamb in your future.

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