by Charlie Leck
You've got to start with this: The day before yesterday (Saturday) I pulled a miserable lower lat muscle while I was trying to play golf. It happened on the very first swing of the day. Of course, I did no stretching before I took that first whack at the ball. Because I was in a foursome that was competing in a friendly little event, and because I had a guest with me at my golf club, who I wanted to have a really good time, I played the round anyway. It was a tough day and I, naturally, played very poorly and in pretty significant pain. The other three guys in my group played so well without me that we still tied for first place.
So, then, on an absolutely elegant and sunny Sunday morning, I made some decisions about resting the back and trying to get it better. The ice and then heat treatments of the night before had helped, but I didn't want to do anything foolish to again injure the thing. The Twins and Yankees were on TV and that would make for a good afternoon.
In the morning, I took a batch of lamb, which I'd had marinading for a day, out of the refrigerator and began the process of cooking it all up. It was a complicated recipe that called for three hours of braising in a low oven, so I got started well before the game and used a variety of different cuts as a kind of lab test of which parts of the lamb would do best in this process.
It took me about two hours to pull everything together and I finally started the braising process just as the ball game was beginning. Perfect timing. The braising would end about with the conclusion of the ball game and then I'd devote myself to the other hour or so the recipe called for finishing things up with a crisping process.
In the end, the dinner was supposed to be a magnificent sight and just perfect for a photograph. And as I watched the game, the aromas from the kitchen began wafting their way through the entire house. It was rather magical and tantalizing. What a perfectly wonderful smell.
It was a great ballgame that the Twins won in a very dramatic fashion. That left me happy and my back was feeling great.
The game over, I took the big braising pot from the oven and checked my lamb, prepared to do the crisping routine that would finish it off. The intent was to take the small pieces of lamb, still on the bone, and put them in a very hot oil to quickly crisp them up for finger eating; however, the braising had been so thorough that the meat was all separated from the bone. What to do? Just serve it the way it was or go ahead and crisp up just the meat. A fantastic sauce, very new to me, was heating up on one of the burners and I began crisping pieces of meat on another. It didn't work! The meat just sort of broke completely apart and dissipated into nothingness. I stopped that approach immediately and decided to just go with what I had.
My wife came up from the farm, tired and hungry, just as I was spooning the sauce over a pile of lamb that really could not be identified by cut or variety. I sprinkled some chopped, fresh mint over the entire concoction and then added some chopped cilantro and basil as well.
You know, it turned out to be a spectacular dinner. The sauce, which was loaded with fresh herbs, butter, Harissa and lime juice, saved the day. It penetrated all those boneless, broken up bits of meat and flavored them perfectly. I served it all with a platter of raw, fresh, chopped vegetables in an Asian sauce, along with some nice, fresh slices of avocado.