I was looking through Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and I noticed a recipe for Onion Marinated Lambchops (p 478). Mark suggests marinating the chops in shredded onions, olive oil, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper. I didn’t have chops, nor did I have time to marinate, but I did have a stray package of ground lamb hanging around the back of the fridge and a quick check showed I had everything I needed to make lamb tacos inspired by Bittman's recipe.
And Lucy wanted to do the cooking so this dinner was perfect for a nearly three year old chef – lots of stirring over open fire and cutting things with dangerously sharp knives. Frankly, it was a toddler’s den of iniquity.
We got out the “cooking stool” and washed our hands and she was poised with her wooden spoon, ready to stir anything in her reach. I helped her pour the olive oil in the pan. “Not too much, Mommy!” She’s a bit bossy when she cooks. And I gave her a good size knob of butter and she put it in the cast iron pan. Then, she used the knife to cut a little wedge for herself and licked it, while she informed me she was licking it, as if I didn’t notice she was licking it. “I’m licking it, Mommy.” which totally clarified it for me.
I diced the onions and Lucy threw them in the pan and we watched them get all slick and golden. Lucy stirred and I taught her how to stir without flicking the oil around the stove - and not just to keep the stove clean, but to avoid having her end up in a pediatric burn unit, where I would have to explain why a pre-schooler was cooking our dinner. Then, smarty pants that she is, she touched the pan with her finger on purpose and looked at me and said, “That’s hot, Mommy.”
Master of the obvious, my daughter.
We crumbled the ground lamb into the onions and butter. It was pretty fun to crumble the smooshy meat between our fingers and it seemed at that point she learned her lesson because she was pretty hell bent on staying far from the hot pan. Then, she stirred some more, which is her third favorite cooking activity, next to cutting stuff up with a knife and picking things up with chopsticks.
We added some cumin and then we smelled the cumin and tried to describe the spicyness of the taste and we tasted the meat and decided it needed more cumin. But I think Lucy just liked pouring in the cumin and it wasn’t really a taste decision. So we added a lot of cumin because the pouring was so fun.
She dropped in several “pinches” of salt. I have to really watch her with the salt because she LOVES to put like a hundred pinches of salt in the food. If you turn your back for a second when she is near a salt bowl, there will be little white towers in your food. So after doing only a little pinch she looked at me and said, “That’s enough, Mommy. Not too much.” which I think is verifiable proof that she actually is listening to me.
Then, we moved to the cutting board and I put my hand over hers and we cut the cilantro into a chiffonade. I write this because I liked teaching her to say "chiffonade", which really comes out more like “shamaladerer” when she says it, but still I’m hoping she drags the word out in front of guests. I’ll pretend it’s nothing, but inside I’ll be wanting to alert the Food Network that we have a little Alton Brown on our hands.
The cutting was fun. Lucy produced a flurry of tiny cilantro pieces which rained all over the kitchen counter and the floor. “Look Mommy! The cilantro is flying!” and when the lamb was nearly done and the heavy scent of cumin filled the apartment, Lucy dropped in overstuffed handfuls of bright green into the pan “It’s snowing green snow in the pan!!”
Anyway, we stuffed fork fulls of meat into soft taco shells and lavished them with tomatoes, avocado, asiago cheese and sour cream. That was fun. And messy. There are still little flecks of cheese stuck to my kitchen floor.
We folded our tacos into little hand-held sandwiches and ate them with Edie, standing around the kitchen, proud of the little meal we created ourselves. Well, actually Lucy loved the tacos, but she didn't want me to eat anything because she apparently made the entire meal for her father and every bite I took was like I was taking precious food away from a starving man. She glared at me every time I took a bite or appeared to enjoy it.
I chewed quietly.
But there was plenty for David when he got home and Lucy was proud of her cooking and David raved about the tacos, which made her very proud and full of accomplishment.
It was all very satisfying.
PS Thanks to Homesick Texan for these scrumptious taco pics.