Break the Silence of the Lamb
So how did winter treat you? Fairly mild you say? I didn’t even break out my heavy coat, not once. For the most part, I wore shorts all season. Now, not only is Spring in the air, it’s strutting around like it owns the place. Hold on a second Spring! You’ve already played your biggest hits, such as ”Screw up everyone’s sleep cycle,”, and “The Pollen Polka”. But we are running out of time for that springtime song and dance. So why not make like Zorba the Greek and take a little excursion from your dull existence, and what better way to do that then by cooking up a little lamb?
Since this is the time of year one traditionally eats this lovely beast, I thought it’d be a great time to share my method for preparing it. The term “spring lamb” was used in the past to refer to the time of year when you would find most lambs being born. It was also used to suggest meat of a higher quality. Thanks to some of the advancements we have today, high quality lamb can be raised all year round. Of course, here at Eat a Duck, we always suggest you purchase the highest quality product. Something grass-fed, hormone free and delicious. It’s best to spend the extra couple bucks, because lamb is most likely not a staple in your pantry. On that note, now let’s get started with these astonishingly simple recipes for your personal degustation.
You can use any cut of the animal. Depending on which you choose, you’ll have to alter your cooking method, marinade allowances and serving size. I chose a half loin and half rib chop because I had them in my freezer. However this recipe isn’t specific to those cuts. It’s not even bound to the baby sheep. You could use, chicken, pork, or maybe even fish if its firm enough to hold up. Just trust me on this one though, lamb is the right choice for you. If you’re planning on using say, a leg, or a shoulder, you will probably need more liquid than I call for, because you’re going to want to really penetrate that wonderfully mild gamey meat with copious amounts of flavor.
Two loin racks will feed about 4 people. Make sure to trim the fat thoroughly off the bone and around the actual loin. You can ask the butcher to “French” your chops, but I’d advise against that and just do it yourself. Here’s why. Most importantly, if you’re cooking a smaller cut you will be cooking your meat quickly. If you don’t trim enough fat off, you won’t cook the fat through and you will have white, uncooked fat that will probably make you sick. Next, you end up paying more for less. If you trim it yourself, cutting out the meat and fat in between the bone to expose it, you are left with meat and fat scraps. If they do it, it goes in the trash and you pay them for the service of taking away your flavor. Trimming your own meat will give you some experience to build your skills as well as give you some tasty bits you can grill up and eat while dressing the salad. So I’ll give you an entire menu from start to finish you can execute with as little stress as possible. First let’s get started with the lamb.
For the marinade:
4 garlic cloves chopped rough
1/4 sliced sweet onion
The juice of 2 whole Meyer lemons
Zest of 1 of those lemons
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp mint
1/4 tsp chili flakes
2 racks will yield 4 servings
Combine everything inside a heavy-duty zip lock bag. Squish it around and put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours. When you’re almost ready to cook, take out the meat and let it reach room temperature. Pat dry while you get your grill hot. Crank it to about 450°-500° if you can. Cook on each side for about 3- 4 minutes per side, rotating a quarter turn at the 2 minute mark for better grill marking. Let sit and serve on a plate in a pile, next to a Greek Cobb Salad. For the salad, simply chop tomato, cucumber, green,onion, Feta, Greek peppers and kalamata olives finely and uniformly. Lay them in rows atop chopped iceberg lettuce and serve with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, sherry vinegar, juice from the kalamata olive jar, oregano, salt and pepper.
To top off the lamb, I made a confit of garlic and red onions that used the same flavors of the marinade. It’s easy and bursting with sweet tangy flavor to cut the richness of the lamb. Don’t worry if the amount of garlic makes you stumble and bumble. It will break down and caramelize to a mild perfection.
This is all you’ll require:
2 heads of Garlic peel and kept whole
1 medium red onion chopped into a medium dice
1/2 cup olive oil (enough to really coat the cloves)
Juice of 1-2 Meyer lemons plus the zest from one depending on their juiciness
1/4 dry vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking the confit takes more time than it does effort. All you do is put the oil in a medium-sized sauté pan on a med-low heat. Once the oil is heated, place the garlic cloves and onion strips in the pan and cook until both begin to soften. Possibly 10 minutes. Add vermouth and zest. Continue cooking another 10 minutes. Add Juice, salt and pepper. Let everything cook down as long as it takes to be able to determine if more salt or lemon is needed. Once it’s done, the garlic and onion will be sweet, soft and caramel in color. If you press a fork to the garlic and it smooshes, it’s done.
Finally, the easiest and most brilliant thing I can claim as my own idea, since “Everyday I’m Trufflin” was already taken, was to serve this Greek feast alongside an idiot proof roasted cabbage. Turn the oven to 400. Slice the cabbage (with stem and core intact) about 1 inch thick. Drizzle generously with olive oil, since the cabbage will soak up a lot of it. Sprinkle with garlic salt and onion powder and shove in the oven for about 15 minutes. Once the outside edges begin to turn a dark shade of brown and dry out, you know it’s ready for consumption. The inside will be tender and the outside will have a slight char to it.
I know you’ll enjoy this meal because it’s got wonderful complimentary flavors, tons of different textures and it will make you look past that lame forgettable winter.