Ovine Hankerings

July 28, 2010

Strife will not cease till the wolf and the lamb be united.
~Aristophanes

Damn I love lamb. Shamelessly so. It is simply hard to conceal my carnivorous lust for these delicate creatures…it never flags or falters. To me, lambs are the Brahmins of the red meat caste system.

Domestic sheep (Ovis aries) are quadrupedal, ruminant members of the even-toed ungulate order Artiodactyla. One of the earliest domesticated animals, sheep have been raised for fleece, meat and milk since Mesopotamian days, some 10,000 years ago. While often imaged as freely roaming virginal white flocks wandering from one bucolic, verdant slope to another, sheep actually display a wide array of hues—from pure white to dark chocolate brown and even spotted or piebald. There are hundreds, some even say thousands, of sheep breeds which are raised on varied lands across the four corners of the earth. They hoof it on every continent except Antarctica.

The English word “sheep” is derived from the Old English word scēap, while the word “lamb” is rooted in the teutonic word lamba.

Foodwise, the term “lamb” generally describes the meat of sheep offspring from the time it is weaned to one year old. Unlike some other farmed stock, lamb has a seasonal element. Sheep have cycles of breeding, roaming, grazing, and birthing that dictate when sheep and lambs go to slaughter. Ewe ovulation is naturally prompted by the shortening days of autumn, so the birth of lambs, whose gestation period is five months, is meant to coincide with warmer days and the first fresh grass of spring. Genuine spring lamb is born, not killed, in the early spring and slaughtered at between 3-5 months old. Lambs are weaned off milk some four months after birth, at which point they graze and fatten on whatever their habitat offers. Local pasture grasses, marsh grasses and coastal herbs, rosemary, thyme, wild fennel, clover and balsam, wild garlic transubstantiate lamb meat. So, they are what they eat—a lamb’s regional diet imparts distinct, yet subtle, aromatic dialects on the back end.

Please don’t be overly complacent and limit your lamb imagination to loin chops or legs. Break from the routine occasionally and think shoulder, shank, kidneys, tongue, ribs, sweetbreads, sausage and so on.

GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH TAPENADE BUTTER

Tapenade Butter
1 C Niçoise olives, pitted
3 fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 T capers, drained, rinsed and patted dry
2 high quality anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t Dijon mustard
Dash of brandy or cognac
Freshly ground black pepper

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Combine all ingredients, except butter, in a food processor bowl and blend by pulsing with metal blade until smooth. Then add the softened butter and blend further by pulsing until smooth. Adjust seasonings to your tastes. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and stir well. Then wrap the spread tightly in plastic wrap in the shape of a log (about 1 1/2″ x 10″) and refrigerate until firm, usually overnight. To use, just unwrap and slice from the butter log, allowing the slices to soften again some before serving over the warm lamb chops. Alternatively, slowly melt the butter in a small sauce pan and drizzle over the lamb chops.

Grilled Lamp Loin Chops
6 lamb loin chops, bone in, about 1 1/2″ thick
1 plump, fresh garlic head, sliced crosswise
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 T herbes de provence

Freshly grated lemon zest

Rub the lamb chops with the open garlic head, and then season with salt, pepper and herbes de provence. Preheat charcoal grill to medium high heat. Hold your open hand about three inches above the hot grate with the coals already spread and count how long you can keep it there before the pain demands you retract it. Three seconds is medium high.

Meanwhile, bring the lamb chops to room temperature. Grill the lamb until medium rare, about 5-6 minutes on each side. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the lamb chops and the heat of the grill. Let the lamb rest for at least 5 minutes, then serve still warm, topped with tapenade butter slices.

Finish with a light grating of fresh lemon zest over the tapenade butter and lamb chops.

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2 Responses to “Ovine Hankerings”

  1. Tes Says:

    Wow it sounds really simple and yet delicious.
    I love cooking lamb, too…so I wouldn’t miss trying this recipe 🙂
    Thanks for sharing,
    Tes


  2. Good!!! Bookmarked this page that has this amazing content. Will come back to see if there are any updates. You, the author, are a master. Thanks


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