How to cook lamb-first time
I've never had lamb and would love to know a no-fail, tastes great recipe. Anything else I should know concerning which cuts of lamb are best or knowing when it is done, would also be appreciated.
We love leg of lamb and also lamb loin chops and shoulder chops. How to cook depends on size of leg of lamb (semi-boneless or boneless and tied). The best way to cook leg of lamb is put on a rack in a roasting pan, salt with kosher salt and sprinkle with about a TBSP. of rosemary (crumbled) put in a 350 oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours. Start taking temp and cook to 130 for rare-to medium rare. Remove from oven and cover with foil and rest for about 30 min. For chops, I heat a heavy skillet (not non-stick) until fairly hot and then add about 1 TBSP. of oil. Salt and pepper chops and sear on each side until nice and brown. Turn down heat and cook for 4 or 5 min. depending upon thickness of chops.
I have to recommend Julia Child's "The Way to Cook" for great guidelines for cooking most everything. It is my most used cookbook.
I love lamb, but even for me, it can be very gamey. The last thing I would want you to do is to be turned off by the very upfront flavor on your first try. Most like their lamb to be cooked at a relatively low temp, and on the rare side. A first-timer may not agree. I would suggest getting either ribs or chops at first. I've found these cuts to be less gamey yet still very wonderful in flavor. Also, you probably want to seek out recipes that are common to cooking lamb - usually a lot of herbs/spices and some acid like lemon along. Citrus zest goes a long way too. Anyway, once you've found a recipe that seems to your liking, do it up and see how you like it. We personally like spice rubs that include components like cumin, pimenton, cinnamon, tumeric, and the usual salt & pepper. These seem to compliment the gamey factor in various lamb cuts. Rosemary is nice a well. One of our our most simple yet favorite lamb dishes is a simple lamb kabob in the Northern Chinese tradition. Small cubes of lamb from a shoulder roast that have been coated with chile oil, rubbed with cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper and grilled. That's it. This is a very common street food item in China and once you've tried it, you'll know why. But of course, you have to like foods on the spicy side. If heat is not your bag, then try toning it down with olive oil and pimento or pimenton (smoked paprika powder). The smokiness of pimenton adds a nice dimension to the lamb, and you can get pimenton in either sweet or spicy - get the sweet.
The rack of lamb or loin chop is a good start. The flavor of the meat itself is mild in comparison to a shoulder roast. You can either keep the rack intact or slice the individual riblets and make individual chops - these individual "lollipops" cook fast so you need to keep an eye on them.
The loin chops are triangular in shape, relatively small in diameter but thick and can be grilled or pan-fried on all sides, or even roasted. I don't know if you like your meat in general to be rare, but if you use a cast iron skillet, no more than a couple minutes on each of the five sides with a relatively hot pan will result in a medium rare doneness. You'll find that this particular cut has a flat side with mostly bone on it - if you let this side rest on the heating surface for about 3-4 minutes, the bone will heat up and allow you to cook in the middle of the small chop faster. I usually do this last as it not only helps cooks the center of this thick cut, it also helps keep the chop warm.
Lamb chops (rib or loin, pink in the middle)
are my favorite red
meat. Leg o' lamb is a very popular dish.
Your questions cover a broad area.
Here's a site with detailed information:
You can also check out Epicurious
and the Food Network, and
do a search for lamb recipes.