When I was a little girl, I lived on a shady, old-fashioned, leaf-lined side street in the great city of New York.
The thing I love most about my city is the inimitable ability one has to walk absolutely anywhere. This is not the old, “I used to walk two miles to school every day uphill in the snow” sob story in the arcane lore of parent-child relations (even though that’s exactly what I did!), but I think I am old enough now to decry that my best friend and neighbor Polly and I used to hike to school in our kilts and knee socks in the blistering cold until the veins in our legs ran bluer than the ink that leaked through our schoolbags. But we wouldn’t have had it any other way because when you walk in New York City, you never know who or what you’ll see next around the corner. And on the way to eight hours in a schoolhouse, a little adventure can be much welcome.
Unless, of course, you’re me, and you’re a creature of habit. Not knowing what was around most corners, I was comforted to know what was around one specific corner. At the end of my block, just at the avenue, I knew that if I turned the corner I would end up at the Love drugstore, a relic of 1980s New York pharmacies. And in the great crowd of people in which Polly and I always staged our grand adventures, it was nice to know that one face would light up in a smile whenever it saw us.
I Heart NY
I met Rita on my first day of my new school. Our school bus stop was just in front of the Love pharmacy on the corner, and I was waiting for Polly because she was the only girl I knew in what would be a sea of girls who all knew each other. I had never been on a school bus before, and, come to think of it, never would be again. I was shaking in my penny loafers—and was trying hard not to let anyone see me cry.
I went into the drug store to buy a pack of tissues. As I scrambled to collect enough coins to pay the bill, I heard her ask, “What’s your favorite flavor?”
I looked up bleary-eyed, and saw a tall, dark lady with crimson lipstick framing a perfect white smile that glowed against her complexion, and cheekbones high as a cat’s. She was dressed in a flowing skirt that fell from her waist to just below her knees, and a high-necked silk blouse, secured with a silk scarf. She motioned to a box of Charms Sweet Pops, another 1980s relic of a lollipop that I still love and still insist on finding to give away every Halloween. I smiled shyly: “grape.”
She plucked a purple pop from the box, and leaned across the counter with it. “For later,” she said with a wink.
Unexpectedly, I smiled. I tucked my sweet pop away in the bowels of my school bag and sighed, thinking of all the hours that would pass until I could reward myself for surviving my first day at a new school. I met Polly, and we took the bus, arriving at the old brick schoolhouse. All the other girls did know each other, and I didn’t get any gummy bears for finishing my subtraction mad minute in time. But in the afternoon, the teacher did read from Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, and we had roast chicken for lunch, so the day wasn’t a total loss. Back on the bus in the afternoon, I reached into my bag and fished around amongst pen caps and broken pencil shards until I unearthed my lollipop. I unwrapped it and smiled, sucking happily away as I stared out the window at the thronging streets.
“Where’d you get that?” demanded Polly.
From then on, every morning for years, our journey commenced with a visit to Rita. I would buy my lollipop, and Polly would buy some chewing gum, and then off we would set, armed against the world. And one time, when Polly was sick with strep throat and I had to journey alone, Rita insisted I take two lollipops—medicinally of course.
I often see out-of-towners who come to visit New York staring up at the great buildings, and turning around at the grand avenues. Perhaps, to them, it seems like the biggest city in the world. But it is, I swear, a very small town.
Grilled Lamb Lollipops with Port Syrup and “Persillade” Sauce Vierge
These are lamb lollipops, Frenched chops cut from the bone, which create perfect grilled finger food for these hot summer months. They are marinated with herbs and port and then grilled until they are pink inside, and crusty and charred on the outside. I sweeten them up with a drizzle of port syrup, and serve them with a persillade sauce vierge. Persillade is a French culinary expression that means that something is done with garlic and parsley—a common crust for lamb or filling for baked shellfish. In this version, I confit the garlic on the stove in olive oil, until it is soft and sweet. Then I use the garlic oil to create a sauce vierge, a slightly acidic raw sauce to which I add freshly chopped parsley. The flavors are complex and sophisticated, and though the recipe appears to have many components, it’s still French in a Flash. It’s even more of a flash if you plan ahead and put the lamb to marinate and the garlic to confit the night before while you’re in the kitchen having dinner. Then everything will be ready for the next day, and the recipe will take minutes!
Lamb chops or lollipops. Tastes may change, but I have always loved the sweet life.
For the recipe, click HERE!
- 1 head of garlic, minus the three cloves you will use for the marinade, all skinned but intact
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1-pound Frenched rack of lamb, well trimmed of any fat or nerves, cut into chops
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup port
- 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 bunch of parsley stems (reserve the leaves for the sauce vierge)
- 1 twig of rosemary, snapped
- A good amount of coarsely ground black pepper
Sauce Vierge "Persillade" Ingredients
- 1 head of confited garlic
- 1/2 cup garlic oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or lime juice
- 3/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- The leaves from 1 stem rosemary, chopped
- Salt and pepper
Port Syrup Ingredients
- 1/2 cup port
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Begin by placing the peeled garlic cloves and the olive oil in a small saucepot. Sit over low heat, and begin counting 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The garlic will begin to look translucent in the oil, and will be soft to the point of a knife. At this point, take it off the heat, and leave to infuse and come to room temperature. The only thing to keep in mind is that you are not cooking the oil; just heating it. There should be no sizzling or browning of any sort! At the end, the garlic will be absolutely soft and sweet.
- Mix marinade ingredients in a pie dish. Arrange the lamb chops in it, making sure the lamb touches the liquid and not just the parsley stems. Cover with plastic, and put in the fridge for an hour. After an hour, turn the lamb over in the marinade, and cover and refrigerate for another hour. You could certainly marinate the meat longer, but this is the minimum.
- For the sauce vierge, simply combine all the ingredients and allow to sit while the meat is grilling.
- For the port sauce, simply set the port and sugar and a pinch of salt in a saucepot over medium heat. The sugar will dissolve, and the port will reduce. You should be left with about 1/3 the volume of liquid from which you started, and it will be thick and sweet like a syrup.
- Heat a grill pan or a grill to medium-high heat. Blot the lamb on paper towel to remove excess liquid from the marinade, and salt the meat. Drizzle the chops with a touch of olive oil, and sear until golden, about 3 minutes per side for medium rare.
- Drizzle the chops with the port syrup and spoon the confited garlic over the top. Serve the sauce vierge on the side.