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Lamb, Arugula & Endive Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes
by Wolfgang Puck
"I love the lamb, Wolfgang," the famous Los Angeles newscaster (who will go unnamed) told me, looking at a plate featuring what would become one of the most popular lunchtime items at Spago. "But why are you giving me the grass it grazed on, too?"
When we opened the restaurant back in 1982, most restaurants featured salads of iceberg lettuce, maybe romaine if they offered Caesar salad, and sometimes butter lettuce if they were really walking on the creative edge.
But more than a quarter of a century ago you might have been forgiven for thinking you were being served something from a field if a chef served you a plate covered in arugula, lamb's lettuce (known to the French as mache), and curly endive -- not to mention for your consternation over the cold salad greens being topped with slices of warm, medium-rare meat.
Today, of course, you can find sharp-tasting dark-green arugula leaves, tangy lobe-shaped lamb's lettuce, and mildly bitter pale-green curly endive in the produce sections of well-stocked supermarkets and in farmers' markets, especially in their peak springtime season.
Back in the '80s, however, I actually had to search for a small local grower who would be willing to plant them just for me and deliver them to my kitchen so I could serve the kind of salads I loved when I worked in Provence a decade before.
We've come a long way in our appreciation of the wide range of tender little leaves we can use to compose a salad. In fact, most markets now offer a much broader selection than just these three, including the medleys widely referred to as mixed baby greens and often sold washed and ready to use in sealed prepackaged cellophane bags.
As for the meat component, attitudes have changed, too. People have come to love the wonderful contrasts between hot and cold, robust and light, chewy and crisp that you get when you serve roast, grilled, broiled, or sauteed protein on top of a salad, not to mention the tantalizing way the meat's rich juices mingle with the tanginess of the salad dressing. It's a perfect way to "eat light" and yet feel fully satisfied.
Tender, sweet lamb is an ideal choice to top a salad, especially in springtime when the meat is at its best. But the recipe I share with you here will work equally well with beef, pork, chicken, or seafood. You can vary the salad beneath it with any fresh greens you like, too. Enjoy the salad as a lunchtime main course, or offer it in smaller portions as a dinner appetizer.
And count yourself fortunate that, nowadays, your family and friends aren't likely to greet your creation with the kind of disbelief I received back in 1982!
Lamb Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe
1 baby lamb shoulder, less than 1 pound, boned
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2 bunches organic arugula leaves
2 bunches organic lamb's lettuce (mache)
1 small head organic curly endive, pale inner leaves only
4 tablespoons thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the best flavor, marinate the lamb overnight; or, at least, for a couple of hours. To do this, brush both sides of the meat with the mustard and sprinkle with thyme and black pepper to taste. Put in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
About 1 hour before serving, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and remove the lamb from the refrigerator.
Sprinkle the lamb with salt on both sides and place it on a rack in a small roasting pan. Roast until medium-rare, 130 to 135 degrees F. (54 degrees C to 57 degrees C) on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the lamb rest, covered loosely with aluminum foil, for 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the Mustard Vinaigrette.
Rinse the arugula, lamb's lettuce, and curly endive leaves under cold running water; drain well and put them dry with paper towels. If necessary, tear them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a mixing bowl and toss with enough of the vinaigrette to coat them lightly.
To serve, arrange the salad greens in the centers of 4 large salad plates. With a sharp knife, carve the lamb across the grain into thin slices and drape them attractively on top of the greens. Sprinkle the sun-dried tomato slices over the lamb and garnish each serving with Parmesan.
Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing
Makes about 1/2 cup
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Mustard Vinaigrette Preparation
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, tarragon, vinegar, and a little salt and pepper.
Whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in the oil.
Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary, with more salt, pepper, and even a little more vinegar.
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Recipes: "Lamb, Arugula & Endive Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes Recipe
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