Antiquing & Grilled Lamb

Antiquing is a lot like going on safari. You never know what you will find. In Africa, shutterbugs search the bush for lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. While Africa has its big five, antique aficionados have their big finds. They may seek the perfect dining room table, eight, no twelve, matching ladder-back chairs, the elusive armoire, a chest with drawers that don’t stick or an ever-so-solid roll-top desk.

Growing up in New England I grew up with antiques. No, no, no, I’m not talking about my grandparents or the wonderful collection of ancient aunts, uncles and cousins who popped in from time to time. I’m talking about desks and tables and chairs. Some of them started out as hand-me-downs and eventually aged gracefully into antiques. Our house was filled with an odd assortment of chests of drawers and chairs as well as my great grandmother’s dining room table. My mother always claimed that the desk in the living room was built by a ship’s carpenter and ancestor on a trip around Cape Horn. Later my parents purchased a cobbler’s bench and maybe a few more chests when they took off on romantic weekends (and some well deserved time away from my sister, brother and I).

Having grown up with antiques, it seemed only right that I should outright reject them when I set up my first apartment. My first major purchase was, what else, a sofa. It was Swedish modern with neutral beige upholstery and butcher block arms. Now dated and donated, it was de rigueur for any twenty-something when I was twenty-something. Having spent my hard earned and hard saved $300, I ran out of money. Practicality and pocketbook dictated that I take on a bunch of hand-me-downs and flea market finds. Thankfully the stunning basket chair only lasted a few years but I still use my grandparents’ kitchen table and chairs and yet another desk which was built by that same ship’s carpenter on yet another trip around Cape Horn.

Before long, the patina of old wood beckoned and I actually started collecting antiques. My friend Julie has been an excellent partner in crime. We both love to poke around old barns and shops. We have spent more than a few long afternoons wandering thorough antique shows, looking for treasures in the dusty stalls. And while we share a love of antique treasures, our tastes could not be more different. I tend towards simple, sturdy pine and maple. If my collection did not originate in a farmhouse, it looks like it did. Julie looks for darker woods and her furniture is a bit more refined. She seeks out pieces that look like they started life in the city, not on a rustic farm.

The search for antiques is not for the faint of heart. We have combed through clutter and disarray in search of furniture, old prints, dishes and glassware. We have inspected inside and out, top and bottom as if we knew what we were doing. We’ve muttered and mumbled, asked for and then promptly ignored the other’s opinion. We’ve bargained and haggled with dealers and walked away; only to return, sometimes more than once. We have suffered the agony of being out-bid and the victory of bringing home a new treasure.

One of my favorite antique finds is my dining room table. It spent its first of probably many lives in a farmhouse kitchen somewhere in France or Switzerland. It comfortably seats twelve friends and maybe a few more family. It has held countless dinners, large and small, from simple summer feasts to elegant holiday dinners. It’s been with me for at least two decades and has seen countless get-togethers, a multitude of birthday celebrations and a slew of Thanksgiving turkeys.

Whether yours is sleek and modern or an old relic, the best part of any table is the family and friends around it. Enjoy and bon appétit.

Grilled Lamb

Try preparing lamb with a classic marinade of red wine, garlic, rosemary and mustard and cooking it on the grill for a wonderful summer meal. It is perfect for a crowd of family and friends.

Serves 8-12

7-to-8 pound leg of lamb, trimmed, boned and butter-flied (asks your butcher to bone and butterfly it for you, or buy a 4-to-5 pound butter-flied leg)

Juice of 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups dry red wine
1 bay leaf

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, garlic, shallot, rosemary, thyme mustard, honey, salt and pepper; whisk until well combined. Slowly whisk in the red wine.
  2. Put the lamb in a large, heavy-duty plastic sealable bag. Add the marinade and bay leaf; seal the bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate lamb in the refrigerator, turning every few hours, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Longer is better.
  3. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Fire should be medium hot.
  4. Remove the lamb from the marinade. Grill the lamb, turning occasionally until a thermometer inserted in the thickest piece of meat registers at 130° about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice the lamb and serve.

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Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2008

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