It's surprising how many of my otherwise omnivorous friends don't care for lamb. The problem for most of them isn't the seemingly more obvious issue of chowing down on one of nature's cutest, fluffiest baby animals but rather a perception that lamb meat is unacceptably strong.
A lot of older cookbooks offer advice about that, ranging from removing the "fell" (parchment-like skin) from the leg of lamb before roasting to masking the flavor with strong-flavored complements ranging from curry and chutney to that awful bright-green mint jelly that for most of us is a tradition best left in the '50s.
Personally, I consider a bit of gamey flavor one of the joys of lamb, not only for its own sake but because it is this flavor that makes lamb one of the best possible mealtime companions for the kind of red wines I like best: Bordeaux, Northern Italian reds and best of all, the earthy and robust reds of Southern France or their Shiraz cousins from down under, wines with "gamey" and "grilled meat" qualities that play a happy counterpoint with the taste of lamb.
When I've got a wine to taste that calls for lamb, I'll generally go with a simple favorite, pan-grilled lamb chops. Too simple a process to require a full-fledged recipe, it's simply a matter of selecting loin or rib chops (two per serving is plenty), hitting them with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, and searing them over high heat in a screeching-hot black iron skillet with a little olive oil and a couple of smashed garlic cloves until they're brown and crunchy on the outside, rare to hot-pink in the center - say 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how you like it. In our calorie-watching mode, I generally trim off most of the thick edge fat before cooking; and you can save a few more calories by using a Florentine steak procedure: Instead of the oil, throw the chops in a dry skillet with a bit of coarse sea salt scattered on the bottom to provide a little traction to keep the chops from sticking.
If you would like to read more about lamb on the Web, including recipes, here are some good sites operated by trade organizations or producers in three major lamb-producing countries:This week's recipe: Gigot Boulangère
This winter favorite is French comfort food, a leg of lamb prepared with a modern recipe that roughly emulates the old village custom in days before home ovens were commonplace, when people would bring their roasts to the local baker to place in his slowly cooling ovens after the day's bread was done. My version is a somewhat evolved rendition of a recipe I got originally from Mireille Johnston's Cuisine of the Rose, a fine but sadly out-of-print Burgundian cookbook.
Leg of lamb, about 4 pounds (about 2 kg)
2 ounces butter
1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tablespoon dried
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup white wine
2 large onions
4 medium baking potatoes
2 bay leaves
1. Preheat oven to 500F (250C)
2. Cut slits all over the lamb and poke bits of garlic into them with the point of a knife. Soften the butter by rubbing it between your hands, and rub it and the thyme into the surface of the lamb. Salt and pepper to taste, then put the lamb into a lightly greased roasting pan, fat side down. Put it in the oven, reduce the heat immediately to 450F (225C), and roast for 30 minutes. Then turn the lamb over so the fat side is up, and roast for another 15 minutes. Pour off any accumulated fat in the pan, add the white wine to the pan, and cook for 15 minutes more (a total of 1 hour to this point).
3. While the lamb is roasting, slice the onions into thin rounds and cook them in a bit of olive oil (use a nonstick pan if you wish to use less oil) for 5 to 10 minutes or until translucent. Peel and slice the potatoes thin and add them to this pan with salt and pepper to taste and the bay leaves.
4. Take the lamb out of the oven and carefully remove it to a large plate. Put the onions and potatoes into the pan, stirring to coat them with cooking juices, and put the lamb back on top of them. Reduce heat to 400F (200C) and cook for 30 minutes more or until a meat thermometer poked into the deepest part of the leg registers an internal temperature around 140F (60C) for rare.
MATCHING WINE: As noted, lamb is a wonderful partner with almost any dry red wine, although this recipe's French accent strongly suggests a French wine. Burgundy (or Pinot Noir) would be the obvious choice with this Burgundian dish, although it's mighty hard to resist a Rhone (Syrah) or Bordeaux (Cabernet/Merlot) option.Emeril Sweepstake On WineLoversPage.Com!
WineLoversPage.com has joined with Emerils.com to bring the fun of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and his cooking to wine lovers on the World Wide Web!
For four weeks, "Emeril's Missing Ingredient Sweepstake" will present a new recipe each week for a good wine-pairing dish from Lagasse's latest book, "Prime Time Emeril" ... with one essential ingredient missing. Your challenge is to study the recipe (or, if you prefer, search for the complete original on Emerils.com) and figure out what key ingredient has been left out.
Each Friday we'll choose a winner from those who correctly identify the missing ingredient. Winners will get a free, autographed copy of Lagasse's latest book, "Prime Time Emeril," and a Grand Prize winner will win an entire Emeril Cookbook collection.
We'll also award a few bonus prizes - Emeril's spices and sauces - to the comments we judge most creative and imaginative among those who fill in the optional block inviting you to tell us why you chose a specific missing ingredient.
This week's "Missing Ingredient" recipe is MISSISSIPPI MUD CAKE. For details, the recipe and entry form, see http://www.wineloverspage.com/emeril/index.phtml.Follow-up: Risotto, orzotto and our Silichef challenge
If you're a fan of risotto, as featured in the Jan. 21 FoodLetter, you might enjoy giving ORZOTTO a try. This dish, native to Friuli in Northeastern Italy and neighboring Slovenia, replaces the usual short-grain rice with barley in a dish that's essentially similar but that brings the roasty, earthy flavor of toasted barley to the dinner table. I've posted a recipe on our interactive Food Lovers' Discussion Group at
Speaking of our discussion groups, our monthly online "Silichef" challenge (a community cooking game, named after television's Iron Chef with a silicon-chip update) features risotto this month. If you would like to get involved in a friendly, non-competitive project in which hobby cooks around the world try variations on a theme ingredient or technique and report on their results, you might enjoy this topic. Click to
http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=2&tid=26155 for the details.
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Thursday, Feb. 7, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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