Monday, March 29, 2010

How I Cook Lamb

Thank you, JS, for being the catalyst for typing this up! I've needed to do that for a long time!

Mostly I am a "method" cook, not a "recipe" cook. This can annoy recipe cooks to no end! On the other hand, it means that you get to use your old favorite recipes in a new way, by substituting lamb for whatever the recipe calls for.

A few general hints about enjoying Pinwheel Farm's forage-fed lamb: First, it is very lean.That means you pay for delicious, nutritious meat, not fat! It also means that it's easily overdone or dried out. So use low heat and cook it a little longer.

Never thaw lamb in the microwave--guaranteed to make it tough! To quick-thaw chops or cubes, unwrap the meat and put it in a sealed plastic bag with the air squeezed out. Submerge in a bowl of lukewarm water. Keep changing the water and turning the bag. A bowl on top of the lamb can help it stay submerged. Do this while you're peeling the garlic and prepping the veggies (or whatever), and it doesn't take long.

Ground lamb can be thawed/cooked simultaneously, if your goal is to brown it. Use a little oil (olive is great for most cuisines) in a cast iron skillet, on medium heat, and put the unwrapped frozen lump in the middle of the pan. While you are peeling the garlic and prepping the veggies (or whatever), turn it over every few minutes and scrape off the browned layer to the side of the pan. Keep turning and scraping (and stirring the browning crumbles on the edges of the pan) until it's all thawed and browned.

Pinwheel Farm calls it "lamb" if it's less than a year old. Generally this means about 7-9 months old. If the animal was in its second summer, we call it "young mutton"--not quite as tender, but delicious. "Mutton" is anything past its second autumn, and may be richer/stronger flavored and chewier/more tough. There is a "YM" or an "M" printed on the paper package if it was anything but true lamb...the processor doesn't have special printers for "mutton".

Some of my favorite ways to cook lamb:

Festive Leg of Lamb (is there any other kind?)
  • Thaw leg roast in fridge for several days (in a dish to catch any juice that runs out).
  • Have on hand a head of fresh garlic, lots of fresh or dried rosemary, and a large organic (because you'll use the peel) lemon.
  • Slice the lemon crosswise to the core into paper thin slices with a sharp knife. Set aside for now.
  • Peel a bunch of cloves of garlic. Cut lengthwise into pieces the length of the clove and about 1/8 square in cross section. They will look like slivered almonds.
  • Use a sharp, pointed knife (steak knife or paring knife) to stab the leg every inch or so. Insert a garlic sliver in each slit. Takes some time, but well worth the effort.
  • When the entire leg is embedded with garlic, place in roasting dish. Start pre-heating the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Cover the entire surface of the leg with slices of lemon, with the prettiest ones on top and filling in with the scrappy ones on the edges.
  • Sprinkle liberally with rosemary, a little black pepper and salt as desired.
  • Roast until done, using a meat thermometer.

The Joy of Cooking has a nice illustration of the carving method for Leg of Lamb.


Grill, panfry, broil, bake...marinate if you please, season how you wish, there are so many options. Mostly I sell these and eat the liver myself, so I can't give much expert advice.


I used ground lamb just like I would beef in many favorite dishes. Browned crumbles are wonderful in chili, tacos and other Southwestern-style dishes; curries; any sort of red-sauce-and-pasta favorites, etc. For pizza topping and lasagna, I like to saute the garlic and onions along with the browned meat, and add some fennel seed as well as salt, pepper, and Italian herbs (basil, oregano, etc.). The fennel gives a wonderful "Italian sausage" flavor.

You can also make meatloaf, burgers, etc. Because the meat is very lean, patties tend to be more crumbly than beef, so adding oatmeal or breadcrumbs and an egg can not only feed more people but help the patties hold together better. Add seasonings as desired, or simply enjoy the special flavor of lamb.

Kibbee is a wonderful Lebanese dish that blends bulghur wheat with ground lamb and spices. An easy version is at


Cubed lamb makes wonderful hearty soups and stews! It can also be used in chili or curry dishes, and of course kabobs. Use your imagination, and fresh local vegetables in season! Tonight's soup featured Jerusalem artichokes, onions, and carrots, with allspice and other spices.


Well, barbecue them, silly!

OK, seriously, you can grill them or do them in the oven or simmer in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. Marinate with your favorite flavors first, or rub, or baste.


My favorite for quick and easy. I mean it. No, not everyone loves liver, you don't have to, someone else will gladly buy your share. But if you like liver, lamb liver is delicious. And it thaws quickly in lukewarm water, and reheats well after it's cooked.

I dredge with seasoned flour (whole wheat, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and sometimes rosemary) and brown just until done in a little bacon grease or olive oil. Serve warm with bacon crumbles and sauted onions...or put in a bun warm or cold, dressed up with all your favorite hamburger fixings. Oh, so healthy!

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