August 22, 2012

Soup to Nuts: Marching to
the bleat of a different drummer

Much of the lamb served in Maine restaurants comes 'from away.' Phil and Lisa Webster have a plan to change that.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Phil and Lisa Webster at their North Star Farm in Windham with some of the lambs they raise to sell for meat to Whole Foods Market and local restaurants.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Phil and Lisa Webster survey the scene from the barn at Collyer Brook Farm in New Gloucester, where they lease 650 acres to pasture their sheep. The Websters expect to eventually have 2,500 sheep grazing on the land.

Additional Photos Below

NOW SERVING

IF YOU'VE DINED AROUND Portland recently, it's likely you've seen a menu that boasts that the restaurant serves North Star Farm lamb. Here are the Portland-area restaurants that are serving the meat:

Hugo's

East Ender

Grace

Back Bay Grill

The Well at Jordan Farm

Bucks Naked BBQ

RECIPES

HERE ARE TWO of Lisa Webster's favorite ways to enjoy lamb:

BAAAAA SLIDERS

Sliders, which are nothing more than mini burgers, are a very popular item right now, and lamb sliders with a bright, creamy cucumber-yogurt sauce takes the idea to a new level of deliciousness.

Servings: 8 to 10 lamb sliders with creamy yogurt sauce

Total time: 36 minutes

Yogurt Sauce:

1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons grated cucumber

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste.

For the lamb burgers:

1 pound lean ground lamb

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 to 10 small rolls, split (mini sandwich rolls or small dinner rolls work great)

Small head lettuce

2 tomatoes

To make the sauce: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the lamb burgers: In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the oil. Form the mixture into 8 to 10 small, thin patties. Heat a cast-iron grill pan over high heat and brush with oil. Add the lamb burgers and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side for medium. Lightly toast the rolls on the griddle, slice tomatoes thin, add lettuce and lamb burger, and spread with the tzatziki sauce.

GRILLED LAMB CHOPS

Total time: 15 minutes

12 lamb chops

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

3 medium cloves garlic, pressed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Press garlic and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Mix together lemon juice, rosemary, pressed garlic, salt and pepper. Rub lamb chops with mixture. Set aside on plate.

Preheat grill on high heat, until grill reaches 400 degrees. Turn grill to medium heat. Grill chops of both sides until medium pink in center.

 

Chef Pete Sueltenfuss at Grace in Portland also buys whole lambs for a program he calls "Whole Beast Feast," a multi-course meal that serves six to eight people and uses many different parts of the lamb. Two of his favorite dishes he's made so far are a sumac and spruce grilled lamb chop with summer squash puree, and lamb neck-stuffed squash blossoms.

"The thing that sold it to me was their availability," said Larry Matthews, chef/owner of Back Bay Grill in Portland, who is the latest chef to start buying whole lambs from the Websters. "They have a really good stock. Sometimes that's the hardest part of using animals, is sourcing them out."

Matthews typically makes a large batch of sausage, and serves a sausage with one or two chops for a "lamb two ways" dish.

"I will confit the shoulders and the neck in rendered lamb fat and use that in the pappardelle dish, which is always pretty popular," he said.

Lisa Webster believes that as the benefits of lamb become better known and it becomes more mainstream, Americans will begin putting more lamb than beef on their plates. Lambs are easier to raise on pasture, so they're more environmentally friendly (no GMO feed corn to worry about), and they are a leaner protein.

"It's a dense protein," Lisa Webster said. "A whole serving is 5 ounces of lamb instead of 12 ounces of beef."

The Websters have switched entirely to lamb themselves, and eat it several times a week, usually grilled simply, medium rare, with a little salt and pepper and olive oil brushed on with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

The couple also like visiting the restaurants that buy their lamb to see what the chefs are doing with the meat.

Lisa Webster says her family's 200 acres can sustain itself on 1,000 sheep. If she can do that in southern Maine, where costs are higher, she wonders, what are the possibilities for central and western Maine, Down East, and the County, where there's a lot of open areas where farms are either no longer being used or they are raising beef and could add sheep to the mix?

"The potential is unlimited as far as what we can market," she said. "We just have to put all the pieces together."

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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Additional Photos

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Lambs gather around Phil Webster at the couple’s North Star Farm in Windham.

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Lisa Webster often invites chefs into her kitchen to sample lamb from the farm.

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Sheep graze on land at Collyer Brook Farm in New Gloucester that Phil and Lisa Webster are leasing to grow their lamb operation.



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