“Lamb-y” Lamb

This is not a political statement, and maybe it’s all in my head, but I think American lamb is much less “lamb-y” then imported Australian/New Zealand lamb.

This can’t be a crazy concept since all naturally grown/cultivated things tend to pick up the influences of the local “terrior.” Maybe there is something about the Australian/New Zealand countryside that helps contribute to that strong “game” taste in the meat that I am not a fan of.

However with enough garlic and lemon any lamb is bound to taste great! Typically I cook my lamb with a heavy greek-style red sauce, with plenty of garlic and some cinnamon undertones. Recently I was inspired to lighten things up and keep it light with a flavorful marinade of lemon, garlic, rosemary and my-not-so- secret lamb seasoning blend.

I marinated a small (2lb) boneless leg portion of lamb overnight in this flavorful marinade. Patted it dry without scraping off too much of the seasoning and sprinkled it with fresh salt and pepper. After leaving it out for 30 mins or so to get the chill from the fridge off, it I roasted it at the usual 20 mins/lb in a preheated 400 degree oven. Use a thermometer and trust it. 145 degrees internal temperature is considered medium well* and if you pull it out and it’s reading 140 degrees – trust your self and keep it out, lightly covered with foil to finish while resting. It should continue and come up about another 10 degrees. DON”T put it back in the oven “for just a few extra minutes” like I am always tempted to do. And do.

The line between “medium-well” and overdone is a thin one. As is often the case and becuase I am such a worry-wort about the cooking temperature, I may have crossed over that line. Oops! The meat was still tasty and tender and my husband didn’t mind but I probably should have skipped those last few minutes in the oven and left well enough alone! ( or in this case left “medium” alone!)

well done lamb

I did serve it with spinach rice (“Spanakorizo”) and a simple, chunky red sauce made from canned tomatoes poured around the lamb in the beginning, mixing with the roasting juices in the pan.

 *Author’s Note:   I prefer my lamb medium to medium-well but if you like yours a little less done, 120-130 degrees internal temperature is where you want to be for “medium-rare.” However don’t go by me, as I am not official – go to the FDA website!

 

 

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One Pan (or Board) Plan

oneboard-plan

clockwise from top: chopped white onion, chopped green onion, salt & pepper, chopped garlic, Penzey’s lamb seasoning, raw Cauliflower “rice” (i.e. finely chopped), quartered Compari tomatoes, 2 lamb patties. not shown: crumbled Feta cheese – wouldn’t fit! 🙂

Folks around the home-cooking world are clamoring about “one pan plans” or “sheet tray dinners.” this is where all the ingredients are cooked in one pan or one sheet tray.

I am not sure my “one board plan” actually qualifies but I did only use one saute pan to cook. I simply cooked the lamb patties (season each generously with salt & pepper), flipping once, till done to my level. (medium/medium-well for lamb, for me, please) removed them from the pan and set aside under foil. Next added the white onion, garlic and lamb seasoning and saute a few minutes. Add the Cauliflower and tomatoes, stir till combined,lower heat and cover. Simmer till cauliflower is soft ( maybe 10-15 mins tops) Taste and add salt & pepper as needed. Add patties and any juice back in to warm through. Served garnished with the green onions and feta cheese.

Here is my Mediterranean “one board plan” on a plate….

lamb-patty-with-cauliflower-rice

 

A Greek “Affair”

This time of year there are all kinds of “fairs” happening – craft sales, church penny sales, country fairs and my favorite… the Greek fair!

As fate would have it we were just too busy to even squeeze this fair in but I had to satisfy my hankering for some lamb somehow. So I carved out a few minutes to get some lamb on the grill.

I coated the meat in some olive oil, lemon juice and Greek seasoning from Penzeys. The blend is perfect not only on lamb but beef too! (And Penzeys – if your reading this feel free to send me a year’s supply for my free advertising! )

Grill until done to your liking – I like mine medium to medium well and served with a Greek pasta salad with feta cheese. Since the grill was on I tossed on  sliced zucchini and yellow squash too. You can use the spice blend to make up a light salad dressing, use your favorite bottle or simply use an olive oil, red wine vinegar mix with salt, pepper and dried oregano.

Served family style "ompah!"

Served family style “ompah!”

 

Note: use gluten-free pasta if desired!

Springing Forward

Here in the metro Boston area clocks have been turned forward an hour, the Fenway Park season-opener home game is in less than a month and there is still 3 feet of snow on the ground. WAIT. (imagine sound of scratching record here) SNOW? Still on the ground? ugh.

So like everybody around here I am trying to single-handedly make spring arrive sooner by surrounding myself with spring-like things including light, bright “springy” food.

Today it was a Mediterranean inspired brunch. Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary butter. Burger patties with oregano and Penzey’s Lamb Seasoning mixed in before cooking. (if only they had been lamb instead of beef!) A bright, tangy and sweet “tapenade” on top – chopped olives, feta and sweet red bell pepper all mixed with a lemony-oil dressing.

 

If my grill wasn’t still in thigh-high snow, I would have grilled the burgers – “sigh” – maybe by July.

Demand & Supply

One thing about my local grocery store is that they rarely stock ground lamb. Sometimes around Easter I can get it but most of the year – very tough to find. Since I live in the metroboston area my “local” grocery store that is only 2 blocks from me is not my only option. I can get in the car and actually drive about 2 miles to another grocery store that is much more diverse in their meat selection and they reliably supply ground lamb any time of the year due to the demand created by the crowd that shops there.

However for the last 6 weeks or so that hasn’t been possible because the store has all but shut down.

Call it a Greek tragedy or maybe just a family feud, but obviously I must be talking about Market Basket!

While they were closed/striking the other, closer grocery store decided to step up its service and selection – a fact that I appreciated since they are only 2 blocks away. That is how I happened upon the ground lamb one day. And well-priced to boot! That immediately became the catalyst for lamb burgers on the grill.

closeup burger

Seeing that it was lamb, it definitely needed a homemade Tzatziki sauce (made of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, lemon etc) to bring it to perfection. Served along with a side salad made simply of tricolor garden cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta with a drizzle of good olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper.

While I am excited that the folks at Market Basket won their battle, and soon I will be shopping there again, I am interested to see if my closer, local market continues to supply the demand, even if the demand dwindles – probably not. But it was yummy and close by while it lasted!

lamb burger dish Production Notes

I simply mixed in a heaping teaspoon of Penzeys Lamb Seasoning per pound of meat along with a teaspoon of salt at the same ratio and formed patties perfectly sized for grilled English muffins.  Use more seasoning if you want things a little zestier but I wanted the flavor and richness of the meat to shine through.

(and no I didn’t receive any compensation from Penzeys for mentioning their product but if they are reading they can feel free to send me some product!)

Holiday of Obligation

I have emerged from a semester of researching my thesis and as I reflect back on my spring of research and very little cooking, one day stands out for me…(in Massachusetts this day is three holidays in one)

1. “Patriots’ Day” – A day commemorating the first battles of the American Revolution (battles of Lexington & Concord)

or perhaps it was a day of meaning for you as…

2. “Easter Monday” – The second day of the octave of Easter Week and/or second day of bright week. (not quite sure what all this means but wikipedia says it true, so it must be, right?)

or perhaps for you it was…

3. “marathon monday” – This is the day that the Boston Marathon is run and of course a Red Sox game is always scheduled around 11am.

Or maybe it was simply….just a Monday.

cookbookFor me it meant a rare whole day off without having to report into work or attend a class. And that gave me a day to actually cook.  Since my husband and I both worked the day before on Easter, I decided to make a delayed Easter dinner.

And what’s more delicious than a leg of lamb? Plus my local butcher was having a sale on lamb. Of course when I arrived at the store I forgot that a “leg of lamb” is actually quite big – like “feed 20 people big.” So I had to settle on a 4 lb de-boned top portion of a leg that the butcher mercifully had for me.

I took it home, rinsed it and patted it dry and ended up flapping it out flat, coating on all sides with the wonderful lamb seasoning from Penzey’s and rolling it back up and tying it with string.  (kinda like a porchetta)

I stuck to the classics and roasted cut potatoes and onions with fresh rosemary and sage and served sautéed asparagus along side. No mint jelly here but if you need it, serve it.

lamb

Full disclosure: I was working at home that day on editing my thesis research and I may have left it in the oven a teeny bit too long, but it was still delicious!

Late update: Apparently May 7th is “National Leg of Lamb” Day so next year I will cook my leg and do  homework on that day instead!

 

Cottage Pie

AKA “Shepard’s Pie” is a favorite around here. I grew up with it and I consider it a childhood comfort food. But I also like to change it up sometimes depending on what I have around the house. Or maybe just to challenge myself into using what is on hand and not running out to the grocery store!

Today I happen to have some ground lamb in the freezer. Whenever I find ground lamb on sale I buy  it – but you could use ground beef, ground turkey or ground pork. In fact, I am sure I have made it with all of these at one point.

Traditionally it is made with 3 things: ground meat, creamed corn and mashed potato on top. You can’t get more basic than that. Other than S&P and some paprika on top, it is a pretty plain Jane kind of dish. But embellishments are encouraged. I once knew a lady who used a packet of gravy mix on the beef layer to give extra flavor. I have seen folks add peas and carrots to it. On a TV show I saw someone do an upscale version with decorative “piped” mashed sweet potato.  Just adding some diced onions in with the browned ground beef is nice. The list of variations is endless.

But I was keeping it simple with only 7 ingredients. And I only had frozen corn kernels in the freezer and no “creamed corn.”

I didn’t want it to be dry – after all a little gravy is what makes it so yummy. So I turned to the pantry and opened a can of cream of mushroom soup – low sodium. Thinned with a little milk and I had myself some gravy.

A little minced garlic is lamb’s best friend! And don’t forget to make the mashed potatoes yummy with some butter and milk too!

Of course you should season everything to taste and if you want to sneak a little grated cheese on top during the last 20 mins or so of baking – I won’t tell!

P.S. The best thing about a dish like this? you can make it ahead and leave cooking instructions for whatever hungry husband might wander into the house!