Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Anne Mahle
Lamb is growing more common in the U.S. as the flavor tones down and becomes much less "muttony" or gamey than it used to be.
Anne Mahle and daughters Chloe, center, and Ella harvest rhubarb from the family plot.
Elizabeth Poisson photo
The age of the lamb and the cut of the meat also play a part in how strong the flavor is. The older the lamb, the more strongly the meat will taste, and stew meat or shank meat tends to be a bit more full-flavored, just like the dark meat on turkey compared to the white breast meat.
The meat from a lamb chop is very tender and perfect for grilling. It can be very elegant and a bit expensive, so perhaps not for every day. On the other hand, when I was testing this recipe, we ate it very informally, picnic-style, sitting outside in our Adirondack chairs as a family, and the kids ate it right up. The point being, you don't need to break out the crystal to have wonderful food.
It's important to develop a relationship with a good butcher in your area, as they will be able to answer most questions you have about preparation of your meat. They'll also be able to tell you where the meat came from and how old it is.
Too often in a chain grocery store, the person handling the meat is the last in a long line of folks, and they may or may not have useful information about what their chain sells.
We buy three or four whole lambs per season and use them over the course of the summer for curried lamb and lentil stew (and rosemary lamb riblets as an appetizer), and in the winter, I use the shanks for family or entertaining. I'll share these recipes with you another time, perhaps in a winter column.
The dessert for this menu includes one of my favorite fruits – maybe it's really a vegetable; foodies are still haggling over which.
Whatever it is, I love it, and I have great family memories of rhubarb growing behind the garage at my childhood home. I'd love to eat the stalks raw, and was a little bit titillated by the fact that the leaves were poisonous to eat.
We'd make small houses, boats, hats, wings and clothes with the leaves, and they were fascinating because they were so big to us. Rhubarb is great on its own or combined with other fruits like strawberries, apples and blueberries.
GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH MINT DIJON SAUCE
8 to 12 loin lamb chops, 1 1/2-inch-thick
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons paprika
On a platter with a turned-up edge, combine the olive oil, Dijon mustard and paprika. Rub the lamb chops with the mixture and let marinate for at least half an hour. If you want to work ahead, they can marinate for up to 24 hours.
Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the lamb chops 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes covered while you call everyone to the table and do any last-minute details.
Servings: Four to six
Mint Dijon Sauce:
This is a tangy sauce that is great for the summertime -- fast and no heat required. It's also good with grilled shrimp.
1 clove garlic
1 cup fresh mint leaves, lightly packed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
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