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Take a look at lamb.

Does your holiday menu read like A word-association test? Thanksgiving . . . turkey. Christmas . . . ham. Easter . . . one of the two. Recall the occasion, and dinner guests all too quickly remember the familiar fare. Cross up predictions at the next get-together. Shove the same-old, same-old to the side and consider fresh alternatives.

Why not lamb? For years, lamb has been conspicuously absent from the American menu and has suffered bad press for little reason. Linger memories of a gray gravy-laden leg of mutton sitting in heavy fat, with a taste simply too strong, has overshadowed thoughts of experimentation for many people. In reality, most American consumers know little about lamb-how to properly select, prepare, and present the extraordinary entree.

Let's take a fresh look at lamb by reviewing some basics. When you approach the meat counter, ask the butcher for only genuine or spring lamb-a lamb younger than one year old. Top-quality lamb meat in the United States comes from a young animal. If in doubt, look for the purple certificate of grade stamped right on the fat-USDA choice or USDA prime. The choicest cuts of lamb are the legs, the saddle, and the loins. Look closely at the meat. Make sure it is pink-red, fine-grained, and velvety. Dark red meat signifies an older lamb, which has a flavor a bit too strong for the typical American palate. When shopping for a top-quality leg of lamb, look for a well-rounded and well-muscled leg. The outside layer of fat should be firm and creamy white.

One highly prized source of lamb meat is New Zealand. A point of national pride, New Zealand spring lambs are nurtured on the lush highland grasses until four to six months old. Whatever secret the New Zealanders are keeping, their spring lamb has a unique, succulent flavor and aroma. Check with your local butcher to find out if the delicacy is available in your area.

Whatever the cut, follow the directions carefully and use a thermometer for best results when roasting lamb. Insert the thermometer so that the tip is in the center of the thickest part of the lamb and does not touch bone or rest in fat. Roast in the oven at 325 degrees F. Cook to the desired degree of doneness. Lamb roasted to an internal temperature of 125 degrees to 130 degrees F. is pink and rare. When rare, lamb meat is juicier and suffers less shrinkage. But if family and guests prefer well-done roast lamb to 140 degrees F. or medium rare.

To carve a leg of lamb, place the roast on a carving board or platter with the shank bone facing the carvers's right (or left, if he is left handed). Cut several lengthwise slices from the the slim side of the roast, so that the roast will rest firmly on the sliced side when turned over. Make vertical slices to the leg bone, and then cut horizontally along the bone to release the slices.

Armed with the basics, let's move on to the advanced course: the recipes. Compliments of the New Zealand Spring Lamb Company, the exquisite entrees below require a little planning, but the results make all efforts worthwhile. Most lamb requires hours or even overnight to soak up all the delicate spices and flavors. Whether grilled, broiled, or roasted, these creations celebrate the best that is lamb.

Grilled Lamb Salad with Artichoke, Jicama, and Chayote tops the charts for a departure from the ordinary with flavorful flair. This culinary coup arrives compliments of the master chef Brendan Walsh from one of New York's finest restaurants, Arizona 206. Begin by marinating the lamb overnight in a dressing of peppery vinegar, olive oil with garlic, and lime juice. The next day, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and grill until it is medium rare. Serve the elegant entree on a bed of jicama and greens.

Topping the charts for ease in preparation and taste, Dilly New Zealand Lamb Loin Chops makes a mouthwatering meal a lasting memory. In a marinade of onion, dill, lemon juice, yogurt, and garlic, soak the chops overnight, turning occasionally. Broil chops six to eight minutes on each side, brushing with marinade, then present the entree garnished with fresh dill.

Shish kebabs are said to have originated in Turkey. Cubes of meat were threaded onto swords and cooked over a fire. The term comes from the Turkish words "shish" for skewer and "kebap" for roast meat. Savory New Zealand Lamb Kabobs call for skewered cubes of marinated lamb and fresh vegetables to offer a light and lean main-sish entree.

Grilled Lamb Salad with Artichoke, Jicama, and Chayote (Makes 6 servings)

Dressing: 1/4 - 1/2 cup serrano or

jalapeno-pepper vinegar

1 1/2 cups olive oil infused

with garlic and rosemary

1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Kosher salt, if desired, and

freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces wild mixed greens or mixed

baby lettuce

1 pound, 2 ounces New Zealand

spring lamb, grilled, cut into batons 1/2 " wide and 2"long

Olive oil

Salt, if desired and pepper

Rosemary

1 chayote, sliced crosswise with seed

pieces removed

1 medium jicama, peeled and cut in

very fine julienne

6 roasted red bliss potatoes

18 baby artichokes

18-24 Gaeta or Nicoise olives

12 strips each roasted red yellow,

and poblano pepper, cut 1/2 "

Make dressing and set aside. Wash greens and refrigerate.

Lamb used in this recipe has been portioned into muscles from the leg and then marinated overnight with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary. It is grilled medium rare.

Toss sliced chayote in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grill carefully to avoid burning.

Toss greens in 1/2 cup of dressing and arrange on 6 plates. Divide jicama evenly among plates; spread jicama in a circle from center. Toss remaining ingredients and dressing together, divide evenly among plates, and arrange items attractively on jicama and greens.

Dilly New Zealand Lamb Loin Chops

(Makes 4 servings)

1 medium-size onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons dried dill weed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup plain yogurt

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

8 frozen New Zealand lamb loin

chops, thawed

Fresh dill

In large bowl, combine onion, dill, lemon juice, salt, pepper, yogurt, and garlic; blend well. Place chops in marinade; cover. Refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. Place New Zealand lamb loin chops on rack in broiler pan. Broil chops 6-8 minutes on each side, or until at desired degree of doneness; brush frequently with reserved marinade. Garnish with fresh dill; serve with remaining marinade.

Savory New Zealand Lamb Kabobs

(Makes 4 servings)

1/2 cup peanut oil

1/2 cup red wine

2 bay leaves, crushed

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, finely

chopped

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 pound frozen boned leg of

New Zealand lamb,

cut into 1 1/2 "cubes, thawed

1 small eggplant, cut into 1"

cubes

1 small yellow squash, cut

into 1/2" slices

1 small green pepper,

seeded and cut into 1" pieces

4 cherry tomatoes

4 small onions

4 large mushrooms

In large bowl, combine oil, wine, bay leaves, parsley, vinegar, garlic, pepper, and allspice; add New Zealand lamb. Cover; refrigerate overnight, turning lamb occasionally.

Alternate marinated New Zealand lamb and vegetables on skewers. Broil about 3 " from source of heat, turning frequently to cook on all sides. Continue to brush New Zealand lamb kabobs with remaining marinade.

Herb-Smothered Boneless Leg of New Zealand Spring Lamb with Whole Baked Garlic and Croutons

(Makes 6 servings)

Marinade:

1 1/4 cups Beaujolais or other light

bodied red wine

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion

1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley

leaves and stems

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 sprigs fresh thyme, coarsely

chopped

Leaves from 1 branch fresh

rosemary

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black

pepper

3 pounds boneless leg of New

Zealand spring lamb

Salt, if desired, and pepper to taste

1 large bunch fresh thyme

6 branches fresh rosemary

10 large bay leaves

2 large heads garlic

1/4 cup olive oil Croutons

12 1/2 "-thick slices French or Italian bread

Combine marinade ingredients in noncorrodible bowl just large enough to hold lamb. Add lamb and turn to coat on all sides with marinade. Cover bowl and let lamb marinate at room temperature 3 hours. (Lamb may be marinated 6-12 hours in refrigerator but must be brought back to room temperature before roasting.) Turn lamb once, halfway through marinating time.

Remove lamb from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Remove meshed casing from lamb and rub meat all over with salt and pepper to taste. Tie lamb with string at 2 " intervats and lay thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves along length of lamb on all sides, tucking under string to secure them. Set lamb, fat side up, in roasting pan.

Remove thick outer skin from garlic heads, letting thin skin covering cloves remain, leaving heads whole. Brush with some olive oil and add to roasting pan.

Place pan in preheated 450 degrees F. oven and immediately reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Cook 20 minutes per pound for rare (125 degrees-130 degrees F. on instant-read meat thermometer), 25 minutes per pound for medium-rare (1350-1400 F.). Baste garlic with pan juices every 20 minutes.

When lamb is done, transfer it, with garlic, to platter and cover loosely with foil.

Prepare croutons while lamb rests. Increase oven heat to 450 degrees F. Beat 1 tablespoon of pan juices with olive oil and brush bread slices on all sides. Place on baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes, or until golden brown on all sides. Set aside.

When lamb has rested 20 minutes, separate garlic heads into sections. Present lamb on platter, surrounded with croutons and garlic. To carve, remove strings and herbs, cut lamb into 1/2" thick slices. Give each diner 2 croutons and several garlic cloves to be squeezed over croutons.

Roasted Rack of New Zealand Lamb

with Mustard Herb Crust

(Makes 4 servings)

2 racks of frozen New Zealand lamb,

3/4 to 1 pound each, thawed

1/4 cup Dijon-style mustard

1 teaspoon salt, if desired

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary

1/2 cup packaged dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Spread New Zealand lamb with mustard. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary; press into lamb. Combine crumbs, parsley, garlic; press firmly into lamb, Place racks on broiling rack in shallow pan. Pour oil over lamb.

Bake New Zealand lamb in 325 degrees F. oven 45 minutes-1 hour or until at desired degree of doneness.

Zesty Provencal Shoulder of New

Zealand Lamb Chops

(Makes 8 servings)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 medium-size onion, chopped

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms

1 green pepper, halved seeded, and coarsely chopped

6 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded,

and chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon crumbled leaf basil

1/4 teaspoon crumbled coriander

1/4 teaspoon salt, if desired

1/4 teaspoon pepper

8 frozen New Zealand lamb shoulder

chops, thawed

In large saucepan heat 1 tablespoon oil. Saute garlic, onion, mushrooms, and green pepper just until tender. Add tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, fennel seeds, basil, coriander, salt, and pepper. Cover; simmer on medium heat 15 minutes. Remove cover; increase heat and cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside.

In large skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Brown New Zealand lamb chops on both sides. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, 20 minutes, or until lamb chops are slightly pink in center. Add sauce; cook 5 minutes.

Mexican-Style Leg of

New Zealand Lamb

(Makes 6 servings)

1 frozen leg of New Zealand lamb,

thawed, boned, and butterflied

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon leaf oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

With sharp knife, trim excess fat from leg of New Zealand lamb. With tip of knife, cut small slits in lamb in several places. Combine crushed garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and chili powder to make paste. Fill slits in lamb with paste. Place leg of New Zealand lamb, fat side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan. Pour vinegar and oil over lamb evenly. Cover. Refrigerate overnight. Grill lamb over hot coals 30-40 minutes; turn often and baste with remaining marinade. Remove lamb to warm serving platter. Allow lamb to "rest" 10 minutes before carving. Serve sauteed red and green peppers with beans.

Texas-Pit Spring Lamb

4-5 pound leg of New Zealand

spring lamb

Fresh garlic slivers

Marinade:

1/4 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup olive oil

Sprig cilantro, freshly chopped

1 clove fresh garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon salt, if desired

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

At room temperature, trim all excess skin and fat off lamb. Put bone-depth knife punctures (as slender a knife as possible) over fleshy part of leg. Press garlic slivers into punctures. Marinate lamb, covered and refrigerated, 10-12 hours. Cook leg at 240 degrees F. 2 1/2-3 hours, less for rare lamb. Serve hot or cold with favorite sauce.

Requires wood-burning, smoking pit, using 2-3 pounds fresh-cut mesquite wood.

Grilled Rib Eye of Lamb

with Anchovied Spinach

(Makes 20 tasting-size servings)

4 racks of New Zealand spring lamb

(each about 7"in length)

Marinade:

1 cup fruity olive oil

2 shallots, sliced thin

4 sprigs of fresh thyme, slightly

bruised

2 sprigs of field oregano

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

thin

6 black peppercorns, crushed

Salt, if desired, and freshly ground

black pepper

2-3 dried red chili peppers charred in

1/4 cup fruity olive oil (oil should be quite spicy and peppers discarded)

8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained,

chopped fine

5 large cloves garlic, peeled and

chopped fine

1 tablespoon additional olive oil

2 pounds cleaned and stemmed

California leaf spinach

Bone out eye from racks of young lamb and trim well of sinew and veins. Put in marinade overnight in refrigerator or several hours at room temperature.

Have coals ash-grey. Remove lamb eyes from marinade and pat gently but not completely dry. Grill whole eyes, turning frequently to sear on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Finish grilling to rare-to-medium-rare doneness, about 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove. Let rest a few minutes, then slice into medallions about 1/2 "thick.

Heat peppered oil over high heat until just shy of smoking. In food processor, process anchovies, garlic, and up to 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add garlic-anchovy mixture and saute, stirring madly, until garlic is golden brown. Add spinach and toss well and continuously. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately under grilled lamb medallions.

For each tasting-size serving, place two medallions atop generous spoonful of seasoned spinach.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Perry, Patrick
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1988
Words:2500
Previous Article:For pets' ears only.
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