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Five ideas for cooking lamb: Meatballs, rack roast, kebabs, more

Spring is a good time to consider another red meat: lamb. • It can be gamey, which might explain why it's not a protein staple in this country the way it is in others. But it is a versatile option, available in the grocery store in a variety of cuts, and it's a way to mix up your go-to dinner meats.

Certain cuts are less gamey than others. If you're a lamb first-timer, try ground lamb, which can be mixed with other ground meats and turned into burgers or meatballs. Or rack of lamb, one of the most popular cuts, and one that can be turned into a classic spring dish that is quite easy to make.

If you're up for a little game, try roasting an entire leg. A couple of things to know: A leg of lamb usually weighs 6 to 10 pounds. There is a range of meats on the leg itself, tender and laced with fat to more lean and firm, and it often comes with the sirloin attached. Leftover lamb leg's intense flavor can be mellowed in things like stew or the accompanying stir-fry recipe.

Or branch out to the other cuts of the other red meat. Try the shoulder, a marbled cut best purchased boneless that is perfect for roasting. Smaller chunks of shoulder are often sold as stew meat, which might be the easiest of all the cuts to work with. Adding these smaller portions to a large pot with other ingredients is also a good way to hide any unwanted gaminess.

There are also chops, including the tender and lean rib chops; the even leaner loin chops, which look like small T-bone steaks and contain the loin and the tenderloin; and the sirloin chop, a thicker, inexpensive cut from the fat that is good for grilling or broiling.

Nutrition-wise, lamb can be a smarter choice than something like steak. It has loads of protein, so even a small portion can fill you up, and it is lower in saturated fats than other meats. Lamb can also be expensive — the 7-pound leg featured on our cover cost about $38, so roughly $5 a pound.

Here are five recipe ideas for turning these different cuts into a meal.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

medium

Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 1 bone-in leg of lamb, 6 to 9 pounds
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint, plus 1/2 cup small fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1-1/2 cups lower-salt chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Put the lamb in a 4-quart, 15- by 10-inch glass baking dish. In a pinch, you could also use a deep baking sheet, but make sure to line it with aluminum foil first.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the chopped mint, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper. Spread the mixture over the lamb and turn to coat. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight, turning once.
  3. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.
  4. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  5. Put the lamb in the oven and lower the heat to 350 degrees. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg, away from the bone, reads 135 degrees to 140 degrees for medium rare, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  6. Transfer the lamb to a warm platter and cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for at least 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, skim the fat from the top of the pan juices and then set the roasting pan over two burners on medium heat. Add the wine, and with a wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned bits. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the broth, return to a boil, and reduce the liquid again to about 1 cup. Season to taste with salt and pepper, strain into a sauceboat, and stir in the mint leaves. Carve the lamb and serve with the sauce.
  8. Wrap the leftover lamb and store the sauce in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Serves 6 to 8.
Source: Adapted from Fine Cooking

medium

Spelt and Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 4 scallions
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup dill sprigs, more for garnish
  • 2 fat or 3 smaller garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons coarse kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 3 cups cooked spelt or other whole grain berries
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for frying
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. Slice scallions, keeping the light green and white parts separate from the dark green. Put scallion whites and light green slices into a food processor along with parsley, dill, garlic, salt, chile, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, and paprika; process until everything is well minced. Add the spelt and process until the spelt breaks down into a rough, chunky paste.
  2. Transfer spelt mixture to a bowl and add lamb and olive oil. Knead mixture with your hands until well mixed. It should hold together nicely. Form into 1 1/4-inch balls and either cook immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  3. When ready to cook, heat a large skillet, then add just enough oil to coat the bottom. When oil is hot, add just enough meatballs to fit in one layer with space between each piece; they should not touch, or they won't brown as nicely. Fry meatballs until well browned on all sides, then remove to a plate. Add more oil to the pan and fry another batch or two, as needed. (Alternatively, to broil meatballs, lay them out in a single layer, not touching, on a rimmed baking sheet or two. Drizzle with oil and broil until browned, 4 to 10 minutes, checking often and shaking the pan occasionally to help them brown all over.)
  4. Serve with lemon wedges and the reserved scallion greens and dill sprigs. Serves 4.
Source: New York Times

easy

Lamb Stir-Fry with Pomegranate and Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1½ pound boneless leg of lamb, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into ½" wedges
  • Cooked rice (for serving)
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
  • Fresh oregano, mint, and/or cilantro leaves (for serving)

Instructions

  1. Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Let cool, then finely chop. Toss lamb with cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic, vinegar, and 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl to coat; season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill 15 minutes.
  2. Whisk yogurt and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook lamb, tossing occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes per batch; transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  4. Add onion to skillet and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add ½ cup water; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and water is evaporated, about 3 minutes. Return lamb to skillet and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve lamb over rice, topped with yogurt, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and herbs.
  6. Lamb can be marinated 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Serves 4.
Source: New York Times

medium

Lamb Kebabs with Mint Pesto

Ingredients

  • For the pesto:
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (or more) extra-virgin olive oil
  • For the kebabs:
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground in spice mill or in mortar with pestle
  • 2 pounds trimmed boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch squares

Instructions

  1. Make the pesto:
  2. Blend first 7 ingredients in processor to coarse puree. With machine running, gradually pour in 1/2 cup oil; puree until almost smooth. Transfer pesto to bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Make the kebabs:
  4. Mix 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, coarse salt, and coriander in medium bowl. Add lamb; toss to coat. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
  5. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Thread lamb on skewers alternately with peppers and onions. Place on baking sheet. Brush with oil; sprinkle with pepper. Grill to desired doneness, turning occasionally, 7 to 9 minutes for medium-rare.
  6. Arrange kebabs on serving platter. Drizzle each kebab very lightly with pesto and serve remaining pesto alongside. Serves 6.
Source: Bon Appetit

easy

Garlic-Crusted Roast Rack of Lamb

Ingredients

  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1/4 cup rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 racks of lamb, frenched (2 pounds each)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. In a mini food processor, combine the garlic, rosemary and olive oil and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Season the lamb racks with salt and pepper and rub the garlic-rosemary oil all over them. Set the racks fat side up on a large rimmed baking sheet and let stand for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Roast the lamb in the upper third of the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the racks and roast for 10 minutes longer for medium-rare meat. Transfer the racks to a carving board, stand them upright and let rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Carve the racks in between the rib bones and transfer to plates. Serve right away. Serves 8.
Source: Food and Wine

Five ideas for cooking lamb: Meatballs, rack roast, kebabs, more 04/11/16 [Last modified: Monday, April 11, 2016 5:03pm]
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