Lamb: It’s Not Just for Easter Anymore

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By Mike Stines, Ph.B.

Roast lamb with mint jelly is a classic fancy meal for Easter, but lamb – cooked in a variety of ways – is great anytime of the year. Lamb, hogget and mutton are all sheep, the difference being the age of the animal. “Lamb” is the term for a sheep under one year old (also known as spring lamb); “hogget” (also called yearling lamb) is more than one year old, while “mutton” is two or more years old. Common cuts include sirloin, ribs, shank, rack, chops, shoulder and leg.

Although China produces the most lamb worldwide, lamb available in the United States is sourced from New Zealand, Australia and the midwestern states. The lamb raised in the Midwest is pasture-grazed and grain-finished, while Australian and New Zealand lamb is grass fed and grass-finished. This produces a different taste and texture.

Lamb Vindaloo

Lamb VindalooVindaloo, one of many types of curry, originated in the western region of India. It is derived from a Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” pork marinated in wine and garlic. It can be prepared with beef, chicken, lamb or seafood; although not traditional, potatoes sometimes are added. Almost universal on Indian restaurant menus, Vindaloo is one of the hottest curry dishes. Traditionally, it is extremely hot, so adjust the amount of chiles to your tolerance level. This recipe has three steps: preparing the marinade, making the curry paste, and cooking the curry. The curry paste and marinade may be made one day ahead.

Curry Paste

1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 to 4 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes (or four to six dried chiles)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons ground turmeric


1 yellow onion
3 tablespoons coriander seed
4 to 6 dried Kashmiri or Thai (hotter) chiles
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 (one-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup white vinegar

The Lamb

2 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into two-inch cubes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, halved and sliced thinly
8 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)
1 (13 1/2-ounce) can coconut milk

Prepare the curry paste by combining all of the ingredients in a glass bowl.

Prepare the marinade by grinding the coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, fenugreek and fennel in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Process the chiles with the garlic, onion and ginger to form a paste. Place the meat into a container. Pour the marinade over the meat and marinate, refrigerated, for at least three hours or overnight. Remove the lamb from the marinade and drain. Combine the curry paste with the vinegar. Rub the paste onto the meat.

Put oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry until it is dark brown but not burnt. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Add the meat, stir and brown for about five minutes. Pour in the coconut milk. Add more water, if necessary, to just cover the meat. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about an hour or until the lamb is tender. Stir occasionally and add more liquid if necessary.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over hot Basmati rice with mango chutney and Naan bread.

Yield: 2 servings with leftovers
Heat Scale: Very hot

Greek-style Braised Lamb Shanks

Greek Lamb ShankLamb shanks are comfort food… succulent lamb with rich, vegetable-laden, savory gravy. Shanks are much less expensive than chops or roasts, so they are a good value. Each shank makes one serving. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable or salad.

2 lamb shanks (each about 1 1/4 pounds)
Olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 cups red wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
10 to 12 thyme springs tied together in a bundle
3 to 4 cups water or beef stock
4 bay leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 cup sliced mushrooms

Gremolata for Garnish:

1 orange, zested (about two tablespoons)
1 lemon, zested (about one tablespoon)
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
1 small garlic clove, mince

In a small bowl, combine all the gremolata ingredients and set aside until ready to use. (Gremolata is best made fresh, as it will only keep for one day.)

Trim the silverskin and excess fat from the shanks.

Coat a Dutch oven generously with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the shanks generously with salt and add them to the pan. Brown the shanks well on all sides.

Remove the browned shanks from the pan and transfer them to a plate. Discard any excess fat from the pan. Add a little more oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the vegetables. Season with salt. Sauté the vegetables until they are slightly browned and aromatic, about 20 minutes. Add the tomato paste and brown, stirring, for five minutes. Stir in the wine, rosemary, oregano and thyme bundle. Stir frequently and cook until the wine has reduced by about half.

Return the shanks to the pot and pour in three to four cups of water or stock. The shanks should be submerged, if they are not, add more water. Add the bay leaves and mint to the pan, cover and return to stovetop or put in a preheated 400 degrees F. oven. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the shanks are tender. Turn the shanks over halfway through the cooking time. Check the shanks every 45 minutes or so. If the liquid has reduced too much add more water or stock. Skim the fat frequently.

If cooking in the oven, remove the lid during the last 30 minutes of cooking to further brown the shanks. Transfer them to a warmed plate and tent with foil. Strain the liquid, reserving both the sauce and vegetables. Remove the thyme springs and bay leaves. Purée the vegetables in a blender, adding a little sauce if needed; return the sauce and puréed vegetables to the pan and add mushrooms. Cook for three or four minutes. Place the shanks on a warmed serving plate. Drizzle some of the sauce over the shanks and serve any remaining sauce on the side. Garnish with Gremolata.

Yield: 2 servings; Heat Scale: Mild

Lamb Sliders with Lemon-Mint Aïoli

lamb sliders-three-ways-1-wThis alternative to hamburgers makes a great light meal when served with a side salad. Also excellent as a cocktail party hors d’oeuvre.

1 pound ground lamb
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, finely diced (about three tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, minced (about one teaspoon)
1 tablespoon ketchup
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chiffonade cut mint
8 small hamburger or slider buns, such as King’s Hawaiian, halved and toasted

Lemon-Mint Aïoli (recipe follows)

Optional toppings:

8 slices Swiss or Gruyère cheese
8 leaves lettuce, cut to size
8 tomato slices

For the aïoli:

1 cup good-quality mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chiffonade cut mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Combine all the aïoli ingredients in a small bowl and reserve. (This also makes a nice salad dressing or can be served atop vegetables.)

Place a grill pan over medium-low heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook until the shallots are soft, about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and cool.

Combine the shallot mixture, lamb, cumin, ketchup, crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Form the mixture into eight patties each 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick, about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces each. Brush the patties with the remaining oil and grill until cooked through, about three to four minutes per side. Let the patties rest for two minutes.

Assemble the sliders by liberally spreading the aïoli on each surface of the cut bun. Top with cheese, lettuce and tomato, if desired. Place the patties in the buns and serve.

Yield: 2 as an entree
Heat Scale: Mild

Cajun Lamb Roast

Cajun lamb roastHow can anyone go wrong when rubbing a lamb roast with Cajun spices before you cook it? I like to add potatoes for a nice roasting, and then cover them with gravy made from the lamb drippings.

1 (1- to 2-pound) boneless lamb roast, sirloin or top round

Olive oil

2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup mint leaves, minced

Stir together salt, cayenne, black pepper, chile powder, paprika and garlic powder in a small bowl. Coat the lamb with olive oil and liberally rub the spice mixture onto the lamb. Let stand at least 30 minutes or up to three hours.

Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on all sides. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and roast the lamb for 35 to 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees F. for medium-rare, 160 degrees F. for medium or 170 degrees F. for well-done. When lamb has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest 10 minutes. Slice the lamb on the diagonal before serving.

Jalapeño Glazed Lamb Ribs


lamb ribs

Lamb ribs are cut from the brisket/ breast of a lamb. After trimming, they are often called Denver ribs.

2 racks Denver Ribs (about two pounds each)

1/2 cup apple jelly

2 tablespoons minced jalapeño
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, finely minced

Place the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan. Salt and pepper the ribs. Roast them in a preheated 375 degrees F. oven for 40 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine the jelly, jalapeño, vinegar, mustard and garlic. Simmer until the jelly is melted.

Baste the ribs with the sauce and cook them for an additional 20 minutes, basting every 10 minutes.

As an alternative cooking method, grill the ribs four inches above medium-hot coals for 30 to 45 minutes or until they reach the desired degree of doneness. Brush on the glaze during the last 10 minutes of grilling.

Yield: 2 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

Shish Kebab with Mixed Vegetables and Meyer Lemon

shish kebab

A shish kebab is a skewer with meat and vegetables, and is usually grilled. It can contain lamb, beef, fish, or chicken, as well as vegetables such as green peppers, onions and mushrooms. Because the vegetables and meat cook for different times, use different skewers for each.

2 pounds lean lamb fillets, cut into one-inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup red wine
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the oil, chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, garlic, salt, rosemary, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the lamb. Marinate, refrigerated, for several hours or overnight. Remove the lamb from the marinade and drain.

Place the lamb on skewers and grill (or broil) three inches from the heat source for 15 minutes, turning them every five minutes.

Marinade for vegetables:

3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup light soy sauce
|1/4 cup pineapple juice
|2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves minced garlic, about two to three teaspoons
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

For the vegetables:

12 cherry tomatoes
|12 button mushrooms
12 small onions or onion quarters
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into one-inch squares
12 slices yellow squash
12 slices zucchini

Blend all the marinade ingredients together in a blender or small food processor.

Pour the marinade into a zip lock bag with the vegetables and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Arrange the vegetables on skewers, then grill them over medium-high heat, turning and brushing them with marinade for 10 minutes or until cooked.

Grilled Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons, believed to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange, originated in China. They have a sweeter and more floral taste than other lemons, and can even have a slightly orange tint. They are not as acidic as regular lemons such as Eureka or Lisbon lemons.

Cut the lemons in half and grill them over medium-high heat until nice grill marks form, about four or minutes. Serve as a garnish for the kebabs.

Mix together the lamb and vegetables, garnish the Meyer lemons, and serve.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

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