White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford has frequently said that the food traditions of her native homeland, the Philippines, are a major influence when she cooks dinners for the President and Mrs. Obama at the White House--and for special occasions, such as State Dinners. Comerford's culinary heritage is especially present in her choices of savory and aromatic spices and herbs, and the Top Toque's new recipe for Lamb Loin on Chickpea Puree with a Parsley Finishing Oil, prepared for a First Family dinner last month, reflects this. (Above: Comerford cooking the dish in the White House kitchen)
Comerford's recipe for four uses boneless lamb loin, and calls for Harissa, a North African chili pepper paste, as well as garlic and mint. It is finished with her house-made Parsley Oil, which not only adds a vibrant green to the plated dish, but subtly enhances the flavors.
The Top Toque generally declines to use measuring tools for spices when she's cooking, preferring instead to rely on taste and intuition. The new recipe reflects this, with approximate measures that an experienced chef can adjust and tweak.
*4 Boneless lamb loins, 4-6 oz
*1 to 1-1/2 Cups canned Chickpeas
*About 1/3 Cup Tahini (sesame seed paste)
*About 2 Tblsp, or to taste, Harissa
*2 Cloves Garlic, or to taste, chopped
*About 3 Tblsp fresh Mint, chopped
*Freshly-ground Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste
*Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil
*Zest of one orange
1. In a food processor, process/blend Chickpeas, Tahini, Mint, Garlic, Salt and Pepper with enough olive oil to form a puree; taste and adjust aromatics, seasoning.
2. Gently warm the puree in a saucepan on the stovetop; do not boil. Set aside.
3. Slice lamb loin into rounds ½-3/4 inch thick; dry thoroughly with paper or cloth towel.
4. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
5. Sear lamb on both sides until medium-rare. Do not overcook.
Plating: On each plate, spread about ¼ cup of the puree onto the center, and lay two or three lamb rounds over the top. Garnish the lamb with orange zest. Decorate the plate with Parsley Finishing Oil
Parsley Finishing Oil
Ingredients*1 Pound chopped fresh parsley
*1 Cup light extra virgin olive oil
In a saucepan, gently cook chopped parsley in olive oil on the stovetop until the oil turns a vivid green. Strain liquid through a paper coffee filter into a bowl floating in an ice bath, to preserve the brightness. Store in a fine-tipped squeeze bottle.
*Note: This recipe is a foray into White House oral history: As Comerford prepared it for an Obama Family dinner, she narrated it to a visiting Wall Street Journal reporter, according to an East Wing spokesman. Read Comerford's full WSJ interview here.
*Photos by Andrew Cutraro for Wall Street Journal