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Lamb for dinner

I will be preparing lamb for a dinner Friday, and I don't have lots of experience with it. It will be me, husband, 2 boys, and a friend from out of town.
Questions for you all:
1. American vs. Imported (australia)? I've only had imported, but I called a local butcher and they have american available. Rack is $5 more per lb. Shanks only $1 more per lb. than my regular grocer.
2. Rack vs. less expensive cuts? I've only had shank, and shoulder chops ever. How does rack compare? Flavor/ texture?? If I do shank or shoulder, clearly I know I need to braise...but just wondering if I should do a rack for our guest. Seems simple enough for prep.
I'm guessing 2 racks will be enough for 3 adults and 2 kids, so should only be like $20 more for the American vs. Import. Rack would be like $30 more than shanks.
3. Any fabulous recipes? So far I've looked at shanks braised in red wine, or rack with a creamy egg sauce from Lobels Meat and Wine.

Thanks all!

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  1. I'm putting this out there only because I know lots of people who don't like lamb. Are you sure your guest likes lamb? If that's not an issue, I would go with a half leg slow braised in white wine. Cooks for a very long time until tender as butter....no last minute prep.

    1. Nothing is yummier than braised lamb shanks and they'll actually be better if prepared the night before, which is handy when you are entertaining. It is a very homey meal though and I'm not clear if you are trying to have something fancier. Rack of lamb is very impressive indeed. It has nothing like the texture of braised lamb shanks, which as you know is meltingly tender lamb stew. A properly-roasted rack of lamb is much like a very high-quality roast beef in texture. It is quite straightforward in prep, but very last-minute if that matters. Not sure how much your boys eat but usually figure a rack is two servings. I personally do not have strong feelings on imported versus domestic, I buy what looks best in the case. For shanks, the Mario Batali recipe from Molto Mario with tomatoes, olves and oranges is delicious. http://ganbarucook.blogspot.com/2009/...

      1 Reply
      1. re: GretchenS

        Three of my favorites. Italian style: have a leg of lamb butterflied, marinate for a day or 2 in your favorite Italian dressing and throw on the Weber grill. Persian style: slash deep cuts into a leg of lamb and marinate a day or 2 in yogurt, olive oil and diced fresh garlic clove and bake.
        An Indian lamb, yogurt and spinach curry.
        Also Navajo style: rasted leg of lamb served on fry bread w/ green chiles, or in a red chile sauce.

      2. @Escondido, Yes, our guest loves lamb. My own family, not so fond...
        I don't mind a humble cut...not trying to be super formal here, just a great cooked meal! I like the night before prep idea!
        Thanks everyone!

        1 Reply
        1. re: mrsgreer

          If you have family members who don't like lamb, go with a North Aftican stew. The spices in Moroccan or Tunisian recipes make a delicious stew. I get my butcher to cut off all the fatty parts. You can also do this yourself. Not authentic, in the Maghreb they serve lamb stews with the bones in, but I prefer not to make my guests cut out the meat and fat. This can work for people who don't like hot food. Use one of the many recipes that emphasize cumin, coriander. Many recipes also use apricot or oter dried fruit for flavor. And I find that non-lamb eaters love lamb served this way.

        2. I love lamb and IMHO, buy domestic! I just do not like Australian/New Zealand lamb....too gamey for my liking.

          I think lamb shanks would be perfect and there is a yummy recipe on foodtv.com: Oven Roasted Lamb Shanks with Roasted Tomatoes and Toasted Orzo (Bobby Flay): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bo...

          I also really like lamb loin chops and I prepare them very simple with some evoo, salt, pepper, garlic and fresh rosemary. I run them under the broiler between 6-10 minutes a side depending on the thickness.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hto44

            We eat lamb blade or shoulder chops around here nearly weekly. My exotic recipe involves tossing some Lee & Perrins on them 10 minutes prior to grilling. I sometimes use smoked paprika instead. These are thin chops, so I grill 3-4 minutes per side. They're wonderful, and they honestly need very little seasoning.

            We roll racks of lamb in a mixture of fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, and breadcrumbs, and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. If you have 2 racks, you can interlace the bones to make a really pretty presentation. We generally toss new potatoes that have been partially cooked in the microwave into the roasting pan to finish in the lamb juices with the lamb.

            Whole legs of lamb get coated in a paste made of garlic, rosemary, olive oil, and a tiny bit of flour and sit in their paste for 6 hours or more prior to baking. I made one of these for my homebrew club's last holiday banquet and had people petty much scraping the last bits of crust out of the dish at the end. It's an insanely good dish, but you have to be a garlic lover because the whole house is going to fill with the aroma.

          2. We love lamb and especially the lamb shanks. We get big, beautiful hind lamb shanks (American) at a Local BJ's club. I have two favorite ways of preparing them:

            1) ORANGE CURRY LAMB SHANKS

            Season shanks and brown either in hot oil, on the grill or in a 450 oven for 20 - 25 minutes.

            Mix

            1 cup orange juice
            zest of an orange
            2 Tbls teriyaki sauce
            2 tsp curry powder

            Place browned shanks in a covered pot, cover with orange-curry sauce, cover and simmer for 1 1/4 hours or until tender.

            OVEN BRAISED LAMB SHANKS

            Season shanks and brown in a 450 oven 20 - 25 minutes.

            Reduce heat to 325.

            Then, arrange the browned shanks around the pan surrounded by 6 sprigs of rosemary
            and peeled cloves of garlic from 1 or 2 heads.

            Add 1 1/2 cups stock or red wine (I use a combination of stock, dry red wine and port), seal tightly in heavy duty foil, and place in a 325 oven. Cook for a couple of hours until the shanks are very tender.

            When tender, return them briefly to a hot oven to crispen them on the outside while you adjust the sauce.

            My favorite starch to accompny lamb is bulgur wheat pilaf; it's easy (2 parts chicken stock to one part bulgur plus whatever you care to add -- onions, raisins, etc.), and it cooks quickly. It also pairs well for the sauces that remain after cooking either of these dishes. Steamed broccoli rounds out the meal.

            H

            1. I'd always suggest buying local to buying imported whatever it is. Not least because you're supporting your own farmers.

              We often see New Zealand and, much less so, Australian lamb her in the UK. It is much blander and, generally, less fattier than our local lamb and not something I would ever buy on flavour grounds.

              4 Replies
                1. re: GretchenS

                  Some day if you're lucky you will get to taste Ontario lamb.

                  1. re: mexivilla

                    And Maine organic lamb!

                    New Mexico Navajo mutton????

                    1. re: mexivilla

                      I've had lamb in Toronto - although whether local or not, I don't know - but I remember it being a good meal.

                      I am, however, a great believer in eating food close to its point of production. So, whilst I'd always choose any British lamb over an import, I actually buy most of mine direct from the farm in the next county, rather than just generic lamb from the supermarket. That's local!

                2. This is a recipe based on one in "Falling Cloudberries", by Tessa Kiros. It's a Cypriot oven stew, the kind of recipe dating from the days when women would put the dish in an outdoor oven and then go to church or out to work in the field. It's also quite delicious. A friend we'd never entertained before came over one night and I made this; a year or two later, when we asked her to join us again, she said, "I will if you'll make that lamb stew!"

                  Basic recipe, serves 6 - infinitely expandable (and collapsible)

                  2 red onions, roughly chopped
                  3 lbs potatoes (I use White Rose)
                  2 1/2 lbs boneless lamb, in chunks
                  4 Tbs chopped Italian parsley
                  1 heaping Tbs cumin seed
                  1/2 cup olive oil
                  4 or 5 ripe tomatoes, in thick slices
                  3-4 Tbs butter

                  Preheat oven to 350º. Put onion, potato and lamb in 5-qt casserole, season w/S&P. Add parsley, cumin and olive oil and mix well with your hands. Lay tomato slices over the top, salt lightly, dot with butter, then pour about half a cup of water around the sides. Cover with foil and bake for two hours, tipping the pot side to side every so often to spread the juices around. (Kiros also suggests spooning the juices over the top occasionally, which I do only if I'm using a removable lid, as removing and replacing foil is a big PITA.) The lamb should be quite tender at this point, and the potatoes soft.

                  Now uncover the pot, raise the heat to 400º, and cook another 30-40 minutes until the meat and potatoes are browning and the liquid is reduced. Serve hot or at room temperature.

                  The ratios of onion to potato to meat are of course variable here as in most such dishes. As Kiros suggests, you could easily make this with whole lamb chops if you wanted; I think it'd be nice with shanks or neck, and pick out the bones between the steps of uncovering and browning it. I used lamb shoulder, which is probably the best and least troublesome choice, as long as you can get it boneless.

                  Two additions I've made: seeded and chopped Poblano pepper (which I don't bother peeling), and a squeeze of fresh lemon over all just before serving.

                  1. Judy Rodger's recipe in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook is one of the legendary modern American recipes.

                    I don't have an online link, nor the time to paraphrase the recipe, but here is a hybrid, very simplified, variation:

                    http://riceandspice.wordpress.com/200...

                    One technical note: Judy specifies a boneless leg that is *not* butterflied but is "corkscrewed", a more elaborate method of deboning where the butcher works his or her way through the meat and is able to pull out the bone like a screw. This leaves the leg in a *much* better shape to be tied and rolled into a more evenly shaped piece of meat, ensuring more even cooking. My butcher knew how to do this, so it was no problem, but YMMV.

                    Anyway, I love lamb, and the Zuni way was the best I've ever made at home.

                    1. Has anyone ordered the rack of lamb from Lobel's, and if so, were you very pleased, pleased, or is it a waste of money? It's expensive!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: islestyle

                        I have not, but Fleisher's in Kingston NY has fair prices for local, pastured lamb. 5.99 for shank, 18??? for rack? All rack of lamb is pricey. They ship, so visit their website. fleishers.com

                        1. re: mrsgreer

                          Thank you for your help, mrsgreer, but Fleishers only delivers in NYC, and I am in Hawaii.
                          I would really appreciate it if anyone has any first hand knowledge of Lobels.

                        2. re: islestyle

                          I've not ordered the rack but have ordered individual rib chops from lobel's several times & there is nothing like them. I don't know what they do but I have never tasted lamb like lobel's. It is fabulous. B/c of the high price I have tried to find similar chops at several other sites, D'artagnan's just to name one. They are good but not great.. Lobel's are great.

                        3. Both American and Australian lamb are good quality. Australian is usually culled younger and can be milder in flavor. Almost always grass fed, as it should be. American lamb is culled older, can be stronger in flavor, rack may be a better bargain because more meat on the bones, may or may not be grass fed, may have other supplements added to diet (should not) Try either.

                          I'd probably braise the shanks because they can be prepared in advance. But racks are dead simple too. I suggest cutting them in half to cook. Little easier to move around.

                          1. mrsgreer, I recently served 3 racks of Lobel's lamb to five adults. Each rack contains 8 ribs, so each guest was served 4 ribs, standing up and crossed, for a pretty presentation. I marinated the racks for 24 hours, then added sea salt and ground pepper and browned them before putting them in a 400 degree oven on roast, for 18 min or an internal temp of 135. They were beautifully medium rare. Lobel's lamb is never frozen, and is grain and grass fed in America. It was incredible, and has spoiled me from ever ordering NZ or Aussie gamier lamb, forever!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: islestyle

                              I find it interesting that islestyle describes Australian lamb as being "gamier" than the American and, just above, JudiAU, describes the opposite.

                              Here in the UK, age at slaughter will depend on the breed of sheep, where it is raised and when it was born - lambs born early tend to be slaughtered early as "spring lamb" (although that usually means not before June). But, in general, slaughter will take place between 8 -12 months old. As I mention upthread, whatever we do here to grow our sheep, the meat is much fuller in flavour than the New Zealand or Aussie imports. For info, most the meat I buy comes from Cheviot and Texel crosses.

                              Of course, for real flavour, I'd always look out for meat from older sheep being sold as hogget or mutto

                              1. re: Harters

                                Alas, Harters, practically the only mutton eaten on these shores is at the few remaining barbecued-mutton joints in Kentucky, where it is slow-cooked in a wood fire, like pork, and similarly served chopped and sauced. Delicious, and disappearing.

                                As I do not consider "gamey" to be a flaw in lamb, I barely notice it, but I think the imported legs and racks might seem that way when the cryovac packages are cut open and the air hits the long-sequestered bloody ooze. When they're wiped off and cooked I think they're quite as bland as the local stuff.

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  Will

                                  Barbecued mutton? That sounds like I must make a trip to visit a lawyer friend in Lexington. :-)

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Lexington mutton is a distinct BBQ of fame....

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      THE classic BBQ mutton joint is Moonlight BBQ in Owensboro. Every time I've been through there has been on a Sunday, though, and they used to be closed Sundays. I've learned they have changed that policy since then …

                            2. I think you could get with two racks, forgot to note the children!

                                1. re: stanleytapp

                                  Generally speaking, I'm passionate about the quality of our food and, specifically, agree with you about our lamb. That said, don't discount French saltmarsh lamb if you come across it - I reckon that it's a more rounded flavour to the saltmarsh we raise here.

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    As an American, I've long heard that French lamb and mutton were a gold standard, like Scottish beef. Neither of which we get here in any condition worth having, of course.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      The French don't really seem to be into mutton. I can't recall ever seeing it on a menu there but we're seeing it more regularly now in the UK.

                                      They produce more saltmarsh lamb than we do but I suspect not enough for export but it may be worth checking out to see if you have a source over there. It really is a most interesting and different taste from ordinary lamb.

                                      The problem I have with French meat is the butchery. They seem to have forgotten that fat is flavour.

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        Karl, I see that you're in Boston - FYI Chestnut Farms has pasture-raised lamb in their CSA shares. They also sell at farmer's markets though I don't know if they offer lamb there. Their lamb is awesome - you don't get much of it (the farmers have written in their newlsetter that lamb is their most challenging animal!) but what you do get is incredible. I've gotten a rack, several small legs (sometime boneless, sometimes not), chops, ground lamb, and lamb sausage in our CSA share.

                                        1. re: gimlis1mum

                                          Thanks, unfortunately, that CSA is not readily useful for where I live near the North Shore.

                                  2. I know that this is an old thread, but I've got lamb shanks in the oven beginning the roasting process as I type. I season them and give them ca 30 minutes at 450 to brown them.

                                    Then reduce the heat to 325, add 6 whole, peeled cloves of garlic, 6 or so sprigs of fresh rosemary, and 3 cups of liquid (stock, red wine, port, water -- I use 1 cup, 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/2 cup resepectively but whatever you have). Seal well with foil and cook covered for 2 hours or so, until the meat is very tender. At this point you can either save until the next day when the sauce will be easier to defat, or simply remove the shanks, defat the sauce and adjust it, and when ready to serve, return the shanks to a hot oven to crispen them up a bit.

                                    Tonight we'll be having them with aspargus we picked out of our garden yesterday and today -- first of the season --, and either bulgur pilaf (my usual with lamb) or mashed potatoes.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: junescook

                                      Doesn't it annoy you to go through a thread like this and then realize its months (if not years) old! LOL. Anyway, I did lamb today for Mother's Day Brunch... it was delicious. I have made this several times (generally with NZ lamb, generally all I can get without a lot of trouble), and its liked by those who have the "not so much" opinion on the do they like lamb question. I think trimming the fat is the key! http://blog.firecooked.com/2007/05/13... (and skip the sauce... none needed!)

                                      1. re: firecooked

                                        In our house we prefer it to beef, and we live in CT, US.

                                        1. re: junescook

                                          When my ex-wife was cooking in a fanatically-vegetarian restaurant - she didn't dare come in with bacon on her breath! - she noticed one Monday morning that the head cook's prized knife had a nick in the blade. "Seth, what happened?" she asked. Blushing, he whispered, "Lamb bone!"

                                          Bacon may be the breaking point for some veggies, but lamb can be a powerful seducer, too.

                                    2. Thank you so much for asking this question, mrsgreer! It inspired me to go to Lobel's website and order one. Had it for dinner last night, and OMG was it great! Fresh American lamb, never frozen. I simply trimmed a bit of the fat off, salted and peppered generously, put it (skin side up) in a pan, and roasted it at 425 for 30 minutes. 10 minute rest before slicing. Tender, juicy perfection.

                                      1. An update: Served this to guests for Christmas dinner (2012). Everyone raved. This really is the best lamb I've ever eaten (including in the UK, Australia, and NZ). Worth every darn penny. (Used the epicurious.com Mustard and Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb recipe -- easy and delicious.)

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          My preference is for Colorado Lamb.....

                                          1. re: fourunder

                                            I was wondering when someone would mention the world's best lamb! Nothing better!

                                            1. re: primebeefisgood

                                              I've mentioned this before.....with due respect for Australian Lamb.....

                                              Not too long ago....say 20-30 years, before transit restrictions made imports expensive and scarce, as there were few distributors of Australian Lamb products and very expensive pricing above domestic lamb cuts.....the food snobs proclaimed Australian lamb the the best, as the smaller breed produced very small one bite chops, or *Baby Lamb Chops*.

                                              Now with improved transportation methods and readily available Australian and New Zealand Lamb products available everyday in the local supermarkets here in the US for less than $10/lb. for Racks and less than $6/lb. for Loin Chops and Leg......although still very good, it is not looked upon as favorably today.

                                              Hanging Colorado Lamb is the best....especially when Dry Aged.