Readers' Recipe Contest: Lamb
For the spring installment of our now-seasonal Readers’ Recipe Contest (see The Cookie in Winter 2013 and The Tomato in Fall 2012), we asked you for your favorite lamb recipes. Now that so many farmers markets have vendors selling local meat, and lamb is readily available at farm stands and mega-stores alike, we figured this would be a great way to highlight home cooks’ family techniques, old-fashioned preparations, kitchen experiments-gone-right, and intriguing ethnic recipes we’d never seen before. We wanted original and different, not the basic Shepherd’s Pie or Irish Lamb Stew, and you answered with a treasure trove of interesting and delicious recipes showcasing this ever-so-spring-like of meats.
What was surprising, though, was the ratio of professional chef-to-home cook submissions: the pros out-submitted the amateurs by 5-1. Does this mean lamb is not something people cook at home? Is it a special occasion protein best left to our favorite restaurants to prepare for us? Maybe too many of us only think of lamb at Easter, in its classic preparation of roast lamb with mint jelly.
We hope the following recipes (and those accompanying Elizabeth Gawthrop Riely’s story, too) will tempt even the greenest of home cooks to give lamb cookery a try no matter the season.
Spiced Lamb Chops in Tomato-Wine Sauce
Submitted by Robert M. Sturtevant of West Bridgewater, MA. He gets his copy of Edible Boston in the mail as one of our subscribers.
I made this up, influenced by several other recipes I've learned from over the years. We like to have this with a nice grain or mashed potato and a salad. And of course, the rest of the wine.
Serves 2 with leftovers or 4 smaller portions.
1 whole cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
8-10 whole peppercorns
4 cardamom pods
1 minced fresh habañero, or other fresh chili of your heat and taste preference
Ground white pepper to taste
3–4 cloves garlic, chopped
One rack of lamb, Frenched and cut into chops
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Red wine (good enough to drink)
Kosher salt to taste
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Trim excess fat off the lamb rack and cut into chops (you can just buy chops but I think this is more economical and I like the rack better.) Rinse and dry with paper towel. Set aside.
In a sturdy saute pan big enough to hold all the ingredients, pour in a 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add all the ingredients except the lamb, tomato paste, wine, salt, and parsley. Get things sizzling along nicely, stirring occasionally. When things are good and hot, place in the chops. Cooking time varies according to how rare, or not, you want them.
Turn once, add the tomato paste and a half glass of wine (you want it to cook down a little, so don't pour in so much that the chops are swimming in it). Sprinkle on some salt. Stir to incorporate the wine and tomato paste. Serve with a little of the pan juices and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
Barbecue Pulled Mutton or Lamb
Submitted by Katie Sullivan Bradeen of Sheep and Pickle Farm, Brookfield VT. She gets her copy of Edible Bostonfrom her employer, Fat Toad Farm.
Although our farm has not been in operation for very long, we've been cooking lamb creatively since we first home-slaughtered two Icelandic sheep a few years ago. It didn't take long before we branched out from shepherd's pie to simple curries to more adventurous curries and finally to the recipe I offer now. This recipe is just as good if not better when prepared with mutton, the much-maligned meat that almost no one has actually tried! We choose younger sheep (under 5 years old) and those from mild-flavored breeds (Icelandics and Border Leicesters are great). The meat of older animals just has more flavor. This recipe also works well with more awkward cuts, like shoulder, breast, and stew meat. My super-taster spouse Jaska Bradeen came up with this recipe based on what he thought barbecue should taste like.
Rich with the flavors of maple, pepper, and smoky Lapsang Souchon tea, this special spice mixture blows bottled sauces out of the water. This is a long, slow-cooking dish, perfect for putting in after breakfast and before a day of gardening. Enjoy it for supper with fresh sweet rolls, cornbread, or baked potatoes. Your family will fight over the leftovers. Enjoy!
1 6–8 pound bone-in shoulder of lamb or mutton
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon Coleman's mustard
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
2 teaspoons Lapsang Souchon tea, ground
½ teaspoon ground sage
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup lemon juice mixed with ½ cup water OR 1 cup red wine
½ cup maple syrup OR ½ cup brown sugar OR ½ cup sorghum molasses
Preheat oven to 220° F.
Combine spices, rub on meat.
Place meat in a large Dutch oven or covered casserole dish. Add lemon juice/water mix or wine to the bottom of the pan. Cover and place in oven for 8-12 hours. No need to poke it, fuss, or worry about it.
When the meat is fully tender, remove from the oven. Carefully remove the meat from the bones, pulling the meat apart into strings. Discard the bones and any large fatty pieces. Taste the liquid and add additional salt to your taste. The liquid should be strongly flavored. If it is not, reduce it on the stove apart from the meat until reduced by a quarter to a half. Once the liquid is a consistency you like, add the sweetener you prefer. Vary the amount of sweetener according to your taste as well. We like it sweet!
Greek-Style Leg of Lamb with Potatoes + Tzatziki
Submitted by Alex Polemeropoulos, Sudbury MA. He picks up his copy of Edible Boston at Verrill Farm in Concord.
My parents are from the small fishing town of Volos in the Thessaly region on the mainland of Greece. Growing up, we naturally ate a lot of lamb along with plenty of seafood. We've been using the same family recipe for all large cuts of lamb, from a leg of lamb in the oven to a whole lamb on a spit over an open fire at Easter.
You will notice that this recipe uses butter and lemon to baste the roasting lamb instead of olive oil and lemon. This has been a contentious issue in my family as far back as I can remember...one side of the family says olive oil, the other says butter. I prefer butter since the end result is a delectable and crispy coating on the meat that everyone fights to pick at when the lamb comes out of the oven. Olive oil may be the traditional route, but I find that roasting good oil destroys its delicacy and the end result is unappreciated. Butter is better.
Serves 6–8 with leftovers
1 whole bone-in leg of lamb from a local farm, preferably grass-fed; size doesn't matter, it's whatever the animal let us have
4–5 cloves of garlic
Fresh ground black pepper
Dried oregano (Greek is preferred)
Potatoes: depending on the size of the lamb, you want enough potatoes to cover the bottom of the pan and lay the lamb on top to roast
1 stick of butter
Allow the lamb to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350° F. Trim excessive fat off the lamb, but leave some on to flavor the potatoes. Cut the garlic into slivers, about the size and shape of slivered almonds (I usually cut each clove of garlic into two or three pieces lengthwise), and place in a bowl.
To the bowl, add about 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1–2 tablespoons oregano. Mix with your hands, squeezing the cloves a little to press the herbs onto the garlic, but don't mash.
Cut slits using a small paring knife into the meatiest parts of the lamb. Into each cut place a sliver of garlic and a solid pinch of the herb-salt mixture. Do this on both sides of the leg. Also, make a slit down the shaft of bone and stuff some garlic and herbs in there, too.
Next, drizzle some olive oil on the lamb and use your hands to coat it. This helps the herbs stick. Use the remaining herb mix from the garlic bowl and spread it over the leg. After you run out, add an additional sprinkling of salt, pepper and oregano on the lamb. Be generous! Coat it well.
Cut the potatoes in large chunks and scatter them to cover the bottom of a roasting pan in one layer. Squeeze 3 lemons onto the potatoes and add some water to come up about halfway on the side of the potatoes (you want them in liquid, but not submerged). Sprinkle more salt, pepper and oregano over the potatoes. Place the lamb on top of the potatoes and put it in the oven.
The lamb will take several hours to cook, depending on the size. We always cook the leg until the meat is literally falling away from the bone.
As the lamb roasts, baste every 30 minutes with the following mixture: juice of 1 lemon, 1 stick of melted butter, hearty dash of each salt, pepper and oregano. Use a brush to baste the warmed mixture all over the top of the meat. Check the liquid in the pan and add a small amount of water if the potatoes begin to burn.
Roast the lamb until the internal temperature is about 165° F to 170°F, about 3–4 hours for a large leg (8+ pounds) and 1.5–2 hours for a small 4 pound leg.
Let the meat rest for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with the potatoes and a fresh romaine lettuce salad with spring onions.
Serving tzatziki with the meat takes it to a whole new level. These days it is very easy to make tzatziki since you can buy "Greek yogurt" at just about any grocery store. However, I prefer to use yogurt from grass-fed cows with the cream on top. If you end up using Greek yogurt, try to find full-fat Greek yogurt; it's noticeably better than the low-fat/non-fat varieties.
For the old fashioned regular yogurt method:
1 quart cream-top yogurt
1 medium cucumber
2 cloves garlic, crushed (use 1 clove if you want a more mild tzaziki)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Day 1: Take a piece of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and place in a bowl. Empty the quart of yogurt into the towel and tie the ends of the towel together so you can hang the yogurt to drain. (Save the whey; you can use it mixed with yogurt for pancakes or waffles in place of buttermilk!)
Day 2: Peel the cucumber and grate it on a coarse box grater. Lightly salt the grated cucumber, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the salt can draw some water out of the cucumber. A small handful at a time, squeeze the water out of the cucumber and place in a new bowl. It should be roughly 1 cup.
To the cucumber add the garlic, salt, pepper and chopped dill. Add the yogurt and mix thoroughly. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
For the pre-made Greek yogurt method:
Grate, salt and drain the cucumber as in the previous method, then stir along with the last 3 ingredients into a container of full-fat organic Greek yogurt. Serve.
Lamb Steaks with Herbs + Caramelized Garlic
Submitted by Jody Adams and Ken Rivard, chef/owner of Rialto and Trade, and writer, respectively. This recipe appears on their very beautiful blog, The Garum Factory (thegarumfactory.net).
Truth be told, we don’t eat much red meat. However, lamb steaks with herbs and caramelized garlic make a great indulgence, especially with the Pugliese wrinkle of using olive oil scented with rosemary, sage, and thyme instead of a butter sauce. We used American lamb steaks; each was around 6 ounces, but sometimes they’re even larger. As Jody suggests below, you can stretch the recipe by serving smaller portions to more people or by using New Zealand lamb steaks, which are about half the size.
4 sprigs each of thyme, sage, and rosemary, VERY dry
4 bay leaves
4 half-inch thick slices lamb leg, 5 to 6 ounces each
Coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil–not super fancy
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons water
Strip the leaves off the stems of the thyme, sage, and rosemary. Pat the lamb dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Have a splash screen ready: the oil will spit. Just before the oil begins to smoke, add the garlic and cook 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Add the herbs and cook 1 minute, tossing occasionally or until the leaves are crisp, but not burned. This will happen very quickly. Remove the herbs and garlic from the pan. Discard the bay leaves.
Add the lamb and sear on each side, 1½ to 2 minutes for medium rare, longer if you like it cooked more. Transfer to a plate. They need to rest 5 minutes before cutting because they were cooked on such a high heat.
Turn off the heat. Add the lemon zest and juice to the pan with 2 tablespoons water. The lemon juice will sizzle. Use a rubber spatula to deglaze the pan. Return the herbs to the pan (you threw away the bay leaves, right?) and garlic and toss. Pour over the lamb. Encourage your guests to eat the herbs.
Traditional Pascha (Easter) Lamb Dinner with Lamb Chops, Spanakopita, and Tzatziki
Submitted by Nelson Cognac, chef/owner of Cognac Bistro in Brookline and Kouzina in Waban. He picks up his copy of Edible Boston at Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline.
My wife and partner is Greek and she inspired this recipe I am sharing with you. Our spring lamb is always at Pascha, the Greek word for Easter. While the tradition usually involves roasting a whole lamb on the spit, you can also create this dinner using lamb chops. The final product is a classic combination of lamb, spanakopita (spinach pie), and tzatziki.
8 lamb chops
1 tablespoon mustard
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 shallots, minced
Marinate the lamb for at least 12 hours. You can either sauté in olive oil or grill at medium heat. Cook until medium rare, and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving with:
4 ounces butter 1
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches scallions, chopped fine
2½ pounds spinach, washed, stemmed, and chopped
½ cup dill, chopped
1 pound feta cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 package phyllo dough
Preheat oven to 350° F. Melt the butter and mix with the olive oil. Let cool to room temperature. Mix all remaining ingredients (except phyllo) in a separate bowl. Remove phyllo dough from the package and cut it in half so you have 9 x 12 inch sheets. While you are working, keep the phyllo dough covered with wax paper and a damp towel to prevent it from drying out.
Layer about 10 sheets of phyllo on the bottom of a baking pan, and brush with the butter/oil mix. Sprinkle the spinach mixture in an even layer on top of the phyllo dough. Repeat this process until all of the filling is used up and top with a final layer of phyllo. Score top and cut into 3 x 4 inch squares. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
16 ounces Greek yogurt
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
Peel cucumber, remove seeds, grate, and strain. Mix all ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate overnight before serving.
Khinkali (Lamb Dumplings)
Submitted by Tim Williams, Executive Chef of Community Servings. He gets his copy of Edible Boston at Community Servings headquarters in Jamaica Plain.
I had the good fortune in 1990 to be working in Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia. I have many fond memories but one of the best food memories I carry with me was a celebration at a family’s house that I was invited to through a mutual friend. When Georgians celebrate they go all out! The table was filled with Georgian food; we had wonderful wine made in the traditional method and of course a Toast Master! Though all the food was delicious I cannot think of that day without remembering the lamb dumpling called Khinkali. What’s not to love about juicy, spicy lamb dumplings? Below is a recipe that is as close as I can come to the memory. Enjoy!
Makes approximately 35 dumplings.
6 cups flour
2½ teaspoons salt
3 cups warm water
Mix salt and flour, add warm water and stir well until dough forms. Knead dough with additional flour on a work surface until smooth, 5–7 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap to rest and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
1½ pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 small onions, grated
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek, crushed
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Combine all in a stainless steel bowl and season with salt to taste. Mix well and chill.
Divide dough and cut into 35 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Roll out into 6-inch rounds using a rolling pin. Place 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of the rolled out dough rounds. Fold edges into the center by crimping into 15 to 20 pleats. Hold the dumpling in the palm of one hand, then twist the top of the dough to seal it and form a knob.
In a large amount of boiling salted water boil the dumplings until they float and remove with slotted spoon to drain off excess water. Depending on the size of your pot, cook in batches as to not overcrowd the pot. They take approximately 8 to 10 minutes to cook. Keep the cooked dumplings warm while you cook the rest. Drain off excess water from the platter and then season with a liberal amount of freshly ground black pepper, which is the traditional seasoning.
Lamby Bahb Bahb
Submitted by Suzanne Lombardi, chef/owner of The Plate, Milton MA. She gets her copy of Edible Boston in her own restaurant!
The recipe for the lamb patties in the Lamby Bahb Bahb is actually our Mediterranean Lamb Meatball recipe that we created for one of our first dinner items at The Plate. One of the things I love most about The Plate is how we collaborate when creating our food...particularly our sandwiches. It’s the best when we start to brainstorm about a food idea or, more specifically, a sandwich we would want to eat! The scene is really reality show-worthy. What I have come to realize is as much as we all love to cook we really love eating too. This recipe came about one early morning as four of us were prepping for lunch service. It’s a springtime twist on the more traditional Falafel with Tahini.
Sweet Pea Spread
4 cups fresh peas, shelled
Kosher salt, to taste
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
Black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Boil peas in heavily salted water for 30 seconds. Remove peas to an ice bath. In a food processor or mortal and pestle add ricotta, lemon zest, mint, and drained peas. Pulse until mixture comes together, making sure to keep it a little bit chunky. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and drizzle with olive oil and set aside.
1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup vegetable stock
5 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1½ pounds ground lamb
1 egg, beaten
Preparation Soak breadcrumbs in vegetable stock. Add seasonings and mix until combined. In a bowl combine ground lamb, egg, and breadcrumbs mixture. Use a spoon to portion lamb mixture into 1 tablespoon size balls. Using your hands, roll into round shapes and flatten slightly; set aside until ready to sauté.
2 cups (packed) fresh mint, leaves only
1½ cups extra virgin olive oil
½ cup canola oil
Blanch the mint for 3 to 5 seconds in a large pot of boiling salted water. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, immediately plunge the mint into a bowl of ice water to retain its bright green color. Gently squeeze the mint to remove as much excess water as possible. Put the mint in a food processor or blender. Add both oils, and puree until smooth. Strain oil through a fine sieve. Strain again through damp paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.
Fresh pea tendrils
Working in batches, sauté the lamb patties in canola oil until lightly golden brown, about 2½ minutes per side. Spread portions of good quality pita bread with a generous layer of fresh pea spread. Top with warm lamb patties. Finish with a good stuffing of spring pea tendrils and a drizzle of mint oil.