Christmas has been tucked away for another year. I’m feeling thankful. If one more smiling person wearing a Santa hat had pushed a tray of something sprinkled with confectioners sugar, oozing with chocolate, or laden with nuts in my direction my pants would have packed a bag and headed for Belize.
During our visit to my mother’s I did most of the cooking. This was not a surprise. Christmas eve morning, however, we were treated to a delicious brunch by my parents. Luckily there is a wonderful restaurant inside the gates of their lovely senior golf community so we didn’t have to fight the crowds for a table at a local restaurant. Although tucked within the city limits of the overly congested, hurry here, hurry there atmosphere of San Jose, California, their little community is truly a slice of heaven. Geared toward retired folks the sprawling community offers amenities such as an 18 hole golf course, post office, church and library offering the illusion of tranquil California living, at least until you have to pass through the gate to replenish your cupboard or get a tooth filled.
Funny how we become accustomed, even immune, to the crush of humanity in a large city. Two hour waits for dinner seem commonplace and circling the mall parking lot for the good part of an hour before finding an empty space the norm. I know this because I made my home in Bay Area suburbs for a number of years before tiring of the insanity and heading for quieter waters in God’s Country several freeways, a rural highway, and a scenic back road or two north of there.
Prices in the Bay Area, especially for houses, still catch my attention. Although articles speak of the number of foreclosures in the million dollar mansions prevalent on my parent’s side of the city, pricey new developments continue to rise. Around the corner from my parents, model homes flags flying sit beneath a huge billboard reading “Custom Homes Starting at $900,00.00 as though this was a strong selling point. Tony neighborhoods with tony inhabitants pay a hefty price for the privilege of living where they do. I went to a catered party in the early part of this decade at one of these enormous abodes. A seemingly endless house with an infinity pool dominating the backyard where neither party comprising the hosting couple ever spent any time because they worked 24/7 to make the mortgage payment, which she once confided was hovering just beneath $10,000.00 a month. Dinner was catered, beautifully I might add, because as much as the hostess loved to cook there was never time to spend languishing in her spacious kitchen. Unless you sign your last name Getty, Trump, or Kennedy, bills have to be paid and mortgages met no matter what the earning level you have achieved.
From what I understand a lot of this “new money” came from the dot.com heyday when IPO’s catapulted people with a pocketful of change and a marketable idea into superstars with fat portfolios and “people” overnight. Companies were going public faster than details of Lindsay Lohan’s latest felony charges hit the Internet. What a rush. Unfortunately, as with all over inflated balloons, eventually they either pop or somebody sticks a pin in them so those who got on board early and out quickly were the ones who reaped the most profit from the surge.
As with most affluent communities, or so I would assume not ever having dealt with the stress of managing an obscene amount of money and figuring out how to spend it all, local merchants cater to their higher echelon clientele. Beauty salons advertise full day spa activities such as massage, in-house estheticians, aroma therapy and most probably dog sitting and designer wafers for the more pampered of the canine set.
During breakfast the morning after we arrived, I expressed a need to pick up a few things at the grocery store. Mother suggested we visit a new market not far from there specializing in organic foods. By her description they had a vast selection in their well stocked deli from which to choose lunch meats which was one of four items on my list. New markets like bookstores or fabric stores, always pique my interest so I grabbed the other half and we drove the three miles to check out some high-end peppered turkey.
The parking lot was packed. It took longer than usual to park both due to the surge of last minute shoppers and the fact my other half, a lover of fine automobiles, kept slowing to drool at the new Boxters, Audis, Mercedes and Beamers lined up as though we had entered a Rodeo Drive car dealership .
Greeted by an employee at the door, a cart was pushed in our direction and a welcome offered. Nice touch. My mother used to shop at a market where they offered valet parking and all the veggies came in their own little cozies. Inside the store the flooring caught my eye first being more reminiscent of a hotel lobby than a supermarket. Shoppers carrying expensive bags and wearing designer casual were in evidence everywhere. A line had formed at the deli and bakery sections, where an employee was circling with a tray of samples. On a display towards the front we found pies. Rather than suffer two lines I selected a pumpkin, my other half choosing a pecan. Check and check. That taken care of we pulled a number from the dispenser and waited our turn for lunch meat.
Beautiful displays of food were all around us. On one kiosk every manner of cheese, as well as hard salami and pate. Next to that, a series of stainless steel bins brimmed over with glistening olives and varieties of tapenade and vinegary salad choices. An impressive wine selection spanned three rows to the left, which was where I intended to find myself once the lunch meat was in the basket.
Our number called, we stepped forward. After surveying our options our eyes rested on the prices. Apparently their turkey had been peppered by sons of kings and allowed to run willy nilly through the organic free range, or whatever the term “organic” actually has come to mean. After a quiet exchange amongst ourselves we agreed to sell some stock and ordered half a pound.
It was a beautifully planned enterprise. Vegetables displayed in such a way that it could be deemed art, and priced accordingly. I picked up two bunches of green onions ruining the composition of the piece and a five dollar jar of applesauce and we were done.
At the checkstand we placed two pies, a jar of applesauce, and two bunches of green onions on the conveyor belt. According to the lit screen in front of me our total was $65.00. Did I miss a leg of lamb?? To add to this we’d forgotten we now had to purchase bags in this area or bring our own so had to pay for a bag to put our goodies in. For that price I felt the bag should say Gucci on it somewhere.
So, we are back in calmer waters and have bid the Bay Area and Christmas goodbye once again. Hope your holidays were productive and fun. This was probably the best rack of lamb Susie’s kitchen ever produced. Just delicious. As a note, asparagus is supposed to be good for a hangover. I’m just sayin’. Happy New Year!
Herbed Rack of Lamb
1 8 rib rack of lamb (about 3 1/2 lbs.)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
2-3 Tbsp. EV olive oil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Wipe lamb clean and dry with paper towel. Make a paste out of all the following ingredients except regular olive oil. Rub on lamb concentrating most of the rub on the fatty part of the meat. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In large skillet heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat. Remove plastic from roast place fat side down in skillet. Sear on all sides until golden brown.
Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray. Place roast in pan rack side down. Cook for 7 mins. at 450 degrees then reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
120 degrees Fahrenheit-rare
130 degrees Fahrenheit for med.-rare
140 degrees Fahrenheit for med.
Depending on the degree of doneness you prefer, expect the lamb to take between 10 and 20 mins. to cook.
Allow to sit for 8-10 mins. before carving.