it's things like this that make my uncle call me a pastry puke

spring is nearly upon us, so i'm trying to enjoy heavy, meaty, baked sort of dishes while they are still in season. not that i am going to miss winter one bit, oh no, but i figure now is the time to use some of the straggling stew recipes i've been saving, as well as some of the meat i've been picking up from my weekly farmers market trips. this time it was lamb, which, to be frank, i don't usually eat much of. i've never been a fan of the most common lamb dish, that is, the lamb chop, and i assumed it would carry over into other things. really, the only reason i've been picking up more lamb recipe is that nigel slater cooks with it a lot in his kitchen diaries, so i've been looking for it at the market.

and finding it! this week it was stew meat, which i presume was the shoulder or some similar tough cut, except that i'm lazy and i bought it pre-cut. this particular batch of meat had been purchased much earlier this week and i daresay it was on the very razor's edge of still being edible.

or maybe that is just how lamb smells? at any rate, after washing it, patting it dry, and discarding the smelly wrapper, the lamb looked (and smelled) much more palatable and so i soldiered on with my friday night meal.

the recipe was simplicity itself: i browned the lamb, added a nice layer of spices, poured in some braising liquid, and let it go for about an hour. (i had an entirely different culinary adventure during this hour as i attempted to make french chocolate macaroons. i say attempted because...well, i failed.) because i only have one burner on the stove, i had already boiled the sweet potatoes and set about ricing them with my little potato ricer that never fails to splurge little riced potato droppings every which way. i must be using the thing wrong or something.

here's where i get into trouble. or at least, my uncle calls it trouble, because he considers himself a very dedicated (and seriously, a very talented) amateur chef who eschews all things that involve baking, pastry, "butter, flour, sugar, eggs" and above all, a pastry bag. but i couldn't help myself. the recipe has this picture on it--martha stewart, of course--of the finished product looking all pretty and well-presented and the only way i could think of to achieve this look was by piping the riced sweet potatoes onto the lamb stew prior to baking.

so i took a ziploc, loaded it with the potatoes, and piped away. the result was both pretty and tasty, so i was quite satisfied. plus, i was watching the departed, and i'm sort of a sucker for matt damon, so i was a happy girl on this particular friday night.

tonight we went out for dinner in baltimore--good italian food and, of course, vaccaro's for dessert. i was swapping cooking stories with my uncle to prove that i am not, in his words, a "pastry puke" given my love of sweet baked things and i used this sweet potato pot pie as an example. so he says, what kind of crust did you use and i say, a piped out sweet potato crust and he stops me right there. between the shepherd's pie-like topping AND the fact that i piped it out, i definitely lost this round. but the stew was really tasty.

and you know what? i like being a pastry puke.

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