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Versatile lamb.


Lean leg of lamb makes magnificent shish kebabs, and that's just one of the delicious possibilities.

Ask almost any chef to name his favorite meat, and some cut of lamb will most likely be the answer. The most succulent of the red meats is also the leanest, and American lamb producers have made new lamb cuts larger and more versatile than ever. Lamb isn't just for feasting on such foreign dishes as couscous and moussaka anymore. Lamb's not a delicacy--it has everyday uses. It can be grilled in healthful and tasty kabobs, ground up as economical lamb patties, or added to a pot of stew for a flavor that will leave other meats wanting.

Today's American lamb is also a good source of nutrition. A trimmed three-ounce slice of leg of lamb (the leanest cut) contains 156 calories and three grams of saturated fat. For that, you get 43 percent of the RDA of protein, 74 percent of the RDA of vitamin [B.sub.12] (essential for red blood cells), and high levels of niacin, zinc, and iron as well.

Lamb offers the best of both worlds by combining a domesticated meat with a mild game flavor. Because of its young age (less than one year) true lamb is never tough, and because sheep feed on nothing other than mother's milk and green grasses, lamb is a very pure and easily digestible meat.

Traditionally a spring-time entree used as part of Easter and Passover celebrations, lamb is still prized in European and Middle Eastern cultures. In the past, New Zealand lamb was considered to be the best in the world (it would be impossible to convince a New Zealander or an Australian to trade his lamb chops for steak), and American consumers had to settle for frozen. But today, American lamb offers a milder taste and a fresher meat, at a more reasonable price. (Lamb prices vary a great deal depending upon season and locale, so consult local butchers for the best cut at the lowest cost.)

There are several types of lamb: baby milk-fed lambs less than 3 months old and usually sold whole; spring lamb 3 to 12 months; and mutton more than 2 years old, usually too strong for American palates.

Genuine spring lamb (three to nine months old) is the choice most Americans. When you choose your cut, look for a fine-textured, pinkish to light red meat. The fat surrounding the meat should be one-fourth to one-half inch thick, brittle, and very white. There should still be some redness visible in the bones. A leg of spring lamb should weigh no more than 6-11 pounds. If the meat doesn't have these qualities, you aren't buying genuine spring lamb, and you'll be disappointed with the taste.

A seven-pound boneless leg of lamb (flavored with the requisite fresh clove of garlic) will require 3 1/2 hours (30 minutes per pound) of roasting in an oven at 325 [degrees] F. to reach an internal temperature of 160 [degrees] F. for medium doneness. Lamb is so tender it continues to cook for about 15 minutes after leaving the oven, so anticipate this when checking its doneness.

Vegetable lamb kabobs are ideal for those cooks unfamiliar with lamb. The vegetables keep the dish healthful and simple to prepare, and lamb's naturally spicy flavor works well on its won or with an overnight marinade. These recipes from the American Lamb Council demonstrate the versatility of lamb and dispel any misconceptions about its flavor.

Leg of Lamb Shish Kebabs

(Makes 8 shish kebabs) 2 pounds lean leg of lamb, trimmed

of fat and cut into 1" cubes 1/3 cup olive oil 1/3 cup dry sherry 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon salt, if desired 1/8 teaspoon dried ginger 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce 1 clove garlic, crushed 2-3 green peppers, cut into 16

1" squares 16 small onions, parboiled 16 whole fresh mushrooms 16 cherry tomatoes Arrange lamb cubes in bottom of glass baking dish. In small bowl, combine oil, sherry, oregano, salt, ginger, soy sauce, and garlic. Pour over lamb and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Remove lamb from marinade. Alternately skewer meat and vegetables except cherry tomatoes. Broil 3-4 inches from source of heat 5-6 minutes on each side, or to desired degree of doneness; baste frequently with marinade. Add cherry tomatoes for end garnish.

Lamb Patties (Makes 4 servings) 1 medium onion, sliced 1/4" thick

and separated into rings 2 tablespoons canola oil 3 medium zucchini, cut diagonally

into 1/4" slices 1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into

1/4" strips 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 pound ground lean lamb, shaped

into 4 patties 1/2 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella

cheese (2 ounces) In large frying pan, saute onion rings in oil over medium heat 8-10 minutes, or until soft. Add zucchini, red pepper, Italian seasoning, and black pepper. Cook over medium heat 8-10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Meanwhile, in another pan, cook lamb patties, uncovered, over medium heat 9-11 minutes. Drain liquid; blot with paper towel. Place vegetable mixture on serving platter and top with patties. Sprinkle with cheese.

Classic Lamb Stew

(Makes 4 servings) 1 1/4 pounds boneless lamb leg or

shoulder, well-trimmed, cut into

3/4" pieces 2 cloves garlic, minced 12 pearl onions 1 jar (15 oz.) store-bought or

homemade stewed tomatoes, undrained 1 cup Burgundy wine 2 small potatoes, halved and cut into

1/4" slices 2 carrots, cut into 1/4" slices 2 turnips, cut into 1/4" slices 1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4" slices 2 bay leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1/4 cup water In large frying pan, saute lamb, garlic, and onions 20 minutes, or until browned. Drain drippings. Transfer to medium-size stew pot. Add stewed tomatoes with liquid, wine, potatoes, carrots, turnips, celery, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Combine cornstarch and water; stir into stew. Simmer 1 1/2-2 hours, or until lamb and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaves.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Davis, H. Leigh
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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