Archive for the ‘Lamb’ Category

Leg of Lamb with Citrus Dressing

20 April 13

{{Herself Sez: With Pascha (Orthodox Easter) approaching on May 5, 2013, I’m posting (for Himself) one of his recipes for lamb – a traditional food for Pascha. Enjoy!}}

This is a rather good variation on the normal mint-sauce roast lamb. The basic roasting of a lamb leg is not something that varies a whole lot. The main difference here is the dressing. So – let’s roast a leg.

1 leg of lamb – around 3 lbs.
1 Tbs salt
1/2 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small orange, sliced
1 large lemon, sliced
1/2 tsp rosemary (or about 1 sprig fresh)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grind up the salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and rosemary together with a mortar and pestle to make a rough-grained paste. Then rub the lamb all over with the spice mix. Rub gently with the olive oil, don’t rub off the spices. {If the olive oil is rubbed on first, and the spices rubbed on after that, as the roast heats up, about 90% of the spicing drips off. Also, the spices don’t have a chance to “sink into” the roast, giving up their flavor to the meat.} Place the lamb, fat side up, on a rack in a large baking pan and cover with orange and lemon slices secured by toothpicks. If you want a crustier outside then don’t cover with the orange and lemon slices. Baking time will vary, depending on your taste. Essentially, do it as you normally would if you have a preference. I use a thermometer and cook in a 375° oven until it is 155° internally. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes to reabsorb the juices and stabilize temperature – it will coast up to 160°, which is medium and very nice. Since I cook by temperature, not time, oven variation is not a big factor, but I do occasionally mis-time the roast and the rest of the meal. (About 25 min a pound – give or take).

Just before the roast is ready jam the dressing together. This stuff sounds weird, and the first taste is sometimes weird – but it has one of the nicest after-tastes ever. Be prepared with some mint sauce in case someone doesn’t like this – but I think that most will find it very nice.

1 zest of a small orange – or some dried orange peel
1 zest of a small lemon – or some dried lemon peel
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano leaves – or 1 tsp dried
1 Tbs salt – sea salt is good
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Just dump all the dressing ingredients into a blender and make it smooth

Slice up the roast and serve it with the dressing. You can pour the dressing over the slices or serve it on the side in small bowls for dipping. I think you will enjoy this.


Braised Shank of Lamb

26 November 11
my own photo

Dutch Oven Image via Wikipedia

The shank, or shin, is usually some of the toughest meat on a critter. Think about it – this is the part between the knee and the foot that does a great deal of the work of holding the animal up and moving it around. Lean muscle, as it were. This means that there is lots of connective tissue (collagen), which means tough meat with lots of flavor potential.

What we want to do is cook long and slow so that the connective tissue becomes dissolved, tender, and yields all the flavor back in to the pot. The French, as usual, have a better way – braising with flavorings. Now braising – from the French “braiser” – combines both dry and moist heat. Beef Bourguignon is world famous for its delicious flavor, yet it is only simple braised beef with wine. Here the same technique is applied to the lamb shank – with wonderful results.

2 lamb shanks
salt and pepper
10 cloves of garlic
12 white mushroom caps
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 tsp salt
4 Tbs olive oil
1 bouquet garni – thyme, basil, and rosemary
1-1/2 cup Burgundy or other hearty red wine
1-1/2 cups beef stock
1 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F, with the racks set such that you can get your Dutch oven in about the middle of the oven. Yes – you can use something else – but a good cast iron Dutch oven is best. You’re on your own where other utensils are concerned. There are also people who do this in a crock pot – I’m not one of those. Anyway, dress your shanks with salt and pepper and sauté in hot olive oil until well seared on all sides. Reduce the heat and add the garlic. When the garlic is nicely golden – about a minute or so –
add your wine, salt, pepper, and the bouquet garni. If you’ve got fresh herbs, just tie them up with a string. If all you’ve got is bottled then you can wrap them in cheese cloth or –easiest of all – put them in a tea caddy and drop that into the mix. Advice: use a separate caddy for your garni’s or really get it clean after. I don’t think that lamb flavored tea would be quite right. Anyway, slow simmer things for 8 to 10 minutes.

I guess we need to talk about salt somewhere, and here is as good as any. Go easy on the salt – you can add more later, but taking it out can be fun. In fact, if your beef stock is not salt free then don’t add any salt, other than sprinkling the meat before browning.

Add the beef stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and slow simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the oven to 325°F, and cook for 90 minutes. This is called cooking in a falling oven. Quite traditional with the old wood-fired stone ovens.

Turn the lamb over, add the mushrooms and a bit more liquid only if needed. Don’t drown the meat. The liquid does not cover it. Cook for another hour.

Remove the lamb and mushrooms to a covered dish and strain the liquid through a sieve. Add the tomato paste and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pull the lamb off the bones – it should just about fall off and serve with mushrooms covered with sauce.

Lamb Chops –

26 April 08

When it’s spring and the birds are blooming and the trees are singing, or something like that, and a young man’s fancy turns to… Well, never mind, we know what young men’s fancy is. But an old guy’s fancy may turn to – Lamb Chops! And yes, Shari Lewis was nice for that other fancy.

Yeah, I know, we always thought of lamb as the overdone leg that mama would have sometimes. And only sissies eat lamb and I don’t like lamb. Guys, grow up, get over it. Real men eat whatever they damn well please. I know in the South manly-men don’t eat lamb. But the rest of the world does, and lamb is mighty fine eating. And yes, good lamb chops are expensive. But, if you have a Costco or something similar that does wholesale pricing, and you keep a serious lookout for sales, you just might be able to afford them. You want at least double-cut, and preferably triple-cut. The bigger the cut number, the thicker the meat. Now single-cut (about ½”) is ok for pork chops, but just will not do for lamb. Double-cut is twice as thick. Triple cut is 3 times thicker.

Set the oven for 450°.

Lamb chops, about 2 per person if you are having a good, filling, side dish or two. 3 per if they’re only double-cut. I’m talking about the small sized chops here. About ½ the size of pork chops. You’ll know them when you see them. You won’t usually see the pork chop size. They get reserved for restaurants. Or they come from sheep, not lambs. You don’t want sheep.

Now, you want some good, fresh mint. Yeah, you can use dried, but fresh is better.

You also want a good grade of mint sauce. Cross & Blackwell is the very best. You can make your own if you really want to. Mint sauce is nothing more than an infusion of mint leaves in a sweet leaching liquid. Oh, all right, a herbal vinegar, if you please:
1/2 cup finely chopped mint
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup English malt vinegar
Mix it up in a saucepan, simmer for about 20 minutes, let it cool, decant into airtight containers (old condiment bottles work well).
Take some butter, cold from the refrigerator. Add about 1 ½ tablespoons per chop.
1 clove of fresh garlic per chop, minced. Yes, they’re garlicky. Goes nicely with lamb.
Small bowl food processor or lots of elbow grease.

Put the butter in, add the garlic and get it mixed in. Add just enough mint sauce for flavor and work it in. Don’t put so much sauce in that the mixture becomes liquid. You want this to be rather stiff. That’s why we use cold butter. Work in a good amount of mint. I put in about as much as the mix will hold. Your taste may call for some less. Put the chops in a pan with a grill rack. I always line the pan with aluminum foil, otherwise it’s a mess to clean up. Set the chops on the rack, getting each as close to level as possible. Now, for each chop, dig down with your fingers beside each bone, making a little pocket. Fill the pockets with the butter mixture and keep heaping it on the chops until you run out of topping. Really mound it up. Pop in the oven for 45 minutes for triple-cut. The cooking time can be varied to suit your taste. This should get you done with very little pink. If you like your lamb a bit rarer, reduce the time. I do like mine about medium, but Herself can’t stand underdone lamb.

Of course, you can always pan-fry them. Just treat them like any other kind of meat. You know the drill – Add some olive oil, add some butter. Get the pan hot to where the mix shimmers slightly and the butter is no longer foaming. Ease the flame down between medium and medium-high depending on your range-top. Slide a little crushed garlic in and cook until it is brown, then remove the debris. Add the chops that you have salted and peppered, both sides. Try about 5 minutes a side for double-cut. This should be about medium. If this is too rare for you, just add a bit more time, but be careful of burning. You may need to reduce the heat and go for a little longer time. Anyway, garnish with some chopped mint. Serve with mint sauce.

You can also grill lamb chops, the rules are the same as for any red meat. You might try grilled with some kind of rosemary marinade. The Greeks really like rosemary with their lamb, and they are the experts. Actually, most all the Middle East types deal quite well with lamb. Look for Greek, Lebanese, and so on recipes. They are all the same basic culture, though they will all deny it. And may want to cut your throat for saying so. Alexander had the policy of mingling the cultures. Not to mention the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire – need I go on?

But I’ll get more into Middle Eastern lamb recipes at a later time. Oh hell, I might as well talk a little about kibbe – there are a million spellings. The basic kibbe is:

1 lb. Finely minced lamb. It mostly gets ground in this country – but that is not right. Keep the fat content down low.
1 medium onion, finely minced. Or more, to taste. You can also puree, but I like fine mince better.
2 teaspoons good kosher salt, or less, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
Pepper to taste (optional)
1/2 cup fine burghul – cracked bulghar wheat – soaked for 30 minutes and pressed dry.

Mix the whole mess together. If it is too sticky, try adding a little water.

Now you can bake it or fry it (make that 1 cup burghul for cooked). Deep dish, patties, whatever. Don’t overcook it dry.

But the absolute best way to eat it is raw, like steak tartar. It is called kibbe naeya. I can just see the queasy looks out there. Raw lamb, yech! But it really is delicious. And I wouldn’t lie to you about something as important as food! Of course, you have to have a supply of meat that you can absolutely trust, and that may be hard. If you get clean meat, skim off the surface 1/8″ or so with a clean sharp knife and do your own grinding or mincing you are pretty safe. Anyway, get (or bake) some good fresh pita bread. Get a really good grade of extra virgin olive oil. Greek or Lebanese is better than Italian for this. Put some spicy veggies in the olive oil if you like. Now, tear off a strip of bread, get some kibbe and some olive oil on it. If you’re going to be authentic, use a central communal bowl, and only use your right hand to tear and roll the bread. Depending on the place and local custom, you might have a central dish of olive oil or one per side of the main dish, or even individual dipping bowls. All samey-samey. Chow down and enjoy – it is wonderful!

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