Make this crispy lamb & lentil salad if you ever ruin the dinner you’re trying to make. Perhaps if I’d paid closer attention to the Surrealist painters I studied in college, Joan Miró in particular, I might have avoided the grease fire that ruined dinner and, oh by the way, my wood floor!
Why Miró? Because it was he who said ‘works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness.’ Had I remembered that, I may have intuited a warning of some imminent danger to which I was, as of yet, naïve, like a grease fire worthy of a good ol’ S’Mores roasting session. And had I understood that, I might have then kept my own cool when, in my excitement to heat my skillet for a new braising technique, I let said grease fire ruin my composure AND my wood floor.
Unprepared for four feet of angry, menacing flames on my stovetop, I didn’t even yell ‘FIRE’ at the top of my lungs until after I grabbed the pan in a futile attempt to take it outside. Did I mention that I may have panicked a little?
And that was before the comedy of errors started.
I then tripped over my dog Jake, who somehow hovers at my feet whenever I’m in the kitchen. In losing my balance, I tipped the pan, sending flaring oil over the nearby trashcan and setting it on fire. I tried to hold the burning pan but it fell out of my hands and hit my poor Jake’s hind leg and I watched in horror as black, flickering oil dripped down his leg. The pan, meanwhile, landed on the floor, where it continued to burn like an unwanted ceremonial flame.
By this time I had somehow managed to call out for help and my husband Erik, who rushed downstairs with eyes the size of golf balls, and I took enough swaths at the flames with kitchen towels that the fire department mercifully did not need to get involved. Soon we were both sitting on the floor.
‘Well,’ I said sheepishly to my dear husband, whose eyes had now returned to normal, ‘I could have handled that better, yes?’
In other words… I did everything wrong. Well, maybe not everything, I could have added water to the hot oil, making it worse. At least I didn’t do that. (Jake is just fine, by the way. An emergency vet visit confirmed that Jake’s thick fur had protected him from burns.)
Now, my pooch’s partially shaved leg and a perfectly round burnt mark on our otherwise lovely wooden floor are the only painful reminders of what I now wistfully consider ‘the grease fiasco.’ Honestly, I feel like one of those Lifetime movie actresses who, sniffling away in the face of her latest tragedy, murmurs “I never thought it would happen to me” with just the perfect hint of pathos.
Now I know better.
Now I know that twenty-five plus years of – grease fire-free, mind you – cooking doesn’t prepare you for grease fires. Only preparing for a grease fire prepares you for a grease fire. It’s true. A quick Google search revealed that people tend to research it only after they’ve had one, which is er…a little too late.
As such, I would love to share the basics on how to prevent and react to grease fires.
- Oil catches on fire when it reaches high temperatures, so never leave a pan unattended when heating it.
- Turn the stove off when possible.
- BEST THING TO DO: Cover the flaming pot with a cookie tray or metal lid. Fire cannot exist without oxygen and covering it over literally chokes it to death.
- Keep a large box of baking soda in a cabinet near your stove and pour it on small fires to put them out. If the flame is too large, use that kitchen fire extinguisher that’s been collecting dust.
- And for Pete’s sake don’t be a knucklehead like me and try to move the pan. It just adds to the danger, as does trying to put a grease fire out with water.
I hope these friendly reminders help keep you safe, protect your floor from unattractive black marks, and prevent the family pet from having to suffer the indignation of silly-looking shaved spots on his leg.
Given the grease fiasco…..I do not have that braising recipe I had intended on preparing.
But I can share this incredibly tasty lamb dish that won’t even make you miss an aromatic and tender-braised chicken thigh. While I tried my best to make it look appealing, but I must admit that it’s not that titillating-looking on the plate. It saves all its sparks for your mouth, which is not such a bad thing.
I just love how the crispy savoriness of the lamb juxtaposes with the fresh chewiness of the cucumber and red onion. And the mint adds its strong, cooling aftertaste that always marries it so well to lamb.
making crispy lamb & lentil salad
Rinse 1 14-oz. can of lentils under cold water and allow to drain well.
Slice 2 small (12-14 oz.’s worth) cucumbers into ¼-inch thick medallions,
and then quarter each slice.
Place the cucumber pieces in a medium bowl and add 1 handful (1 oz.) of very thinly sliced red onion, 2 tablespoon of olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside.
Wash 1 bunch (about 6 oz.) of green onions and trim off their root end.
Trim their dark green ends off and then paper-dry them.
They will look like this when you’re done.
Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium-low. Add the onions and cook, turning occasionally, for 18 minutes.
They are done when they turn a golden caramel color.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in another large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Seasoning Blend Meat Magic (available in the spice section of any well-stocked supermarket). Tip the pan from side to side to ensure the oil covers the entire pan.
Shape 1 lb. of ground lamb into 2 large patties, about 1/4″ thick, and season both sides generously with salt and pepper.
Add the patties to the skillet and cook them for 6 minutes on one side. Flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the patty has formed a crispy brown crust.
Remove from heat and, using a metal spoon, break the patty into bite-size pieces.
Add 1 teaspoon of red chile flakes. (You can also add a half teaspoon of cumin seeds if desired here.) Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often, until the lamb is no longer pink.
Transfer the lamb mixture to a plate. Add the lentils and a pinch of salt. Stir well. Cook them, stirring once or twice, until they start to get crispy and brown. Add the lamb back in and stir to combine.
Take off heat and add the cucumber mixture. Serve with plain Greek yogurt or tzatziki and a squeeze of lemon. Makes 4 servings.