Maureen Osborne loves a good bit of lamb. Sure, she's probably going to have it on Easter as part of a traditional holiday supper. But she's not a one-lamb-meal-a-year type of girl. After Easter Sunday, lamb still has a place on her table.
"It kind of holds to be an Easter treat because of the time of year, but in our family it's not," says the Lawrence resident. "I don't keep it special just for Easter. I truly do not - we'll have it several times during the year.
"If I want to have lamb at Christmastime, I'll have lamb at Christmastime."
Osborne has loved lamb all her life, but she's in the minority of Midwesterners, says her lamb producer, Debbie Yarnell of Lawrence's Homespun Hill Farm. Yarnell says the customers seeking her out to buy lamb mostly are from elsewhere and have moved to the Midwest, or they're like her: They went on a trip and came back with a love of lamb.
"I hadn't had it until about 10 years ago," Yarnell says. "I was on a trip back East, and I guess I just had never been exposed before. I was on a business trip and went out to eat, and I splurged on it. And, oh, my goodness, what I've been missing all my life."
Yarnell says that from what she understands, lamb has been missing from the lives of many Midwesterners since the days after World War II, thanks to a culinary translation problem.
"Lamb used to be really, really popular throughout the country way back before World War II," Yarnell says. "From what I'm told, in World War II, a lot of the servicemen overseas, our USA servicemen, were served mutton, and it was a cheap meat at the time. And they didn't like it. And so they say that was kind of the beginning of the demise of lamb meat back in that day, because they came back from the war going, 'I don't want to eat that stuff.' But they weren't eating lamb; it was mutton."
For the record, lamb, according to the American Lamb Board, is meat from a sheep less than a year old. Mutton comes from a sheep older than one year.
"It's a totally different meat," Yarnell says. "Mutton is meat from an older animal, like an older ewe. And it has more of a stronger flavor, and people would say it has more of an 'off' flavor."
Osborne describes true lamb as being almost sweet in flavor and a nice alternative to beef in her kitchen.
"To us it's very mild. To some people it has just a little different taste than beef," says Osborne, whose husband, Bill, and three of her six children also enjoy the meat. "So, you know, it's like anything else, it's like eating bison, buffalo burgers - it's just a little bit different flavor, but we just enjoy it."
Osborne's beef comparison is one Yarnell says is spot on - and the perfect way for lamb novices to test out the meat.
"A lot of folks don't know what to do with it," Yarnell says. "You can do anything with lamb that you can do with beef."
Yarnell says lamb can be ground, used in beef-heavy meals like shepherd's pie, or pressed into burgers, like the one served at Local Burger, 714 Vt., which is made using Homespun Hill lamb.
Yarnell's lamb of choice is the slow-maturing Katahdin sheep, which she settled on after trying six different breeds following her East Coast business trip. Because the Katahdin grows slower than other sheep and because Yarnell's animals are grass-fed, it takes nearly a year for her 50 head of sheep to become big enough to bear 30-40 pounds of meat per animal.
"It ends up being a good fit because then it's ready for the Easter, Passover, spring season," she says. "I get quite a few requests then. Even for Mother's Day, I get quite a few. I certainly sell a lot at Christmastime and even throughout the summer at the Farmer's Market, too. But I tend to get more folks that I hadn't heard of before, every year, that just want it for their special spring get-togethers."
Though leg of lamb is considered the most traditional cut, Osborne prefers lamb "shanks" for any time of year, which she describes as looking somewhat like turkey legs. She braises them in vegetables, tomatoes, wine and chicken broth using the "by guess and by golly" method - no matter the season.
"I don't keep it special just for Easter," she says. "It's a very fun thing to have, fun thing to cook. I don't know, we just like it."
Carmelized lamb roast with stuffing
1 lamb leg, longed and trimmed
2/3 cup dried apricots, snipped into 1/4-inch pieces
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 teaspoons ground pepper
1/3 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
Salt and coarse ground pepper
Butcher's string to tie roast
Lay lamb flat on a cutting board. Trim off visible fat. Use meat mallet to flatten pieces of meat so that all of the lamb is about 2 inches thick. Wrap up meat and refrigerate.
In small bowl, combine apricots and cranberries, set aside. In small skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir and saute 3 to 4 minutes. Add orange juice and cinnamon, bring to a boil. Pour over dried fruit, mix and let stand for 15 minutes.
Lay meat flat on board, cut-side up, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut meat in half, making two rectangles. Divide filling between the two pieces of meat. Evenly spread fruit mixture over meat. Start at the smallest end and roll up meat as tightly as possible. Place seam-side down on board. Tightly tie string around roast at 1-inch intervals. Tie string around roast from end to end. Repeat process making two roasts. Place roasts on a rack in roasting pan. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place roast in oven, immediately turn down temperature to 325 degrees. Baste roast with corn syrup every 15 minutes. Roast for about 50 to 60 minutes or to desired degree of doneness. Remove from oven, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Slice into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
New York Gyro with yogurt topping
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 to 2-1/2 pounds lamb leg, boned, rolled and tied
4 whole-wheat pita bread rounds, split
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 cups spinach leaves
1 cup (8 ounces) plain, low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped seeded tomato
2 tablespoons fresh oregano or cilantro, snipped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or 3/4 teaspoon dried mint, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For gyro: Combine salt, thyme, sage, paprika and pepper. Rub spice mixture into roast. Place roast on rack in roasting pan. Roast at 325 degrees for 1 hour or to desired degree of doneness: 145 degrees for medium-rare, 160 degrees for medium or 170 degrees for well. Remove from oven; cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Internal temperature will rise about 10 degrees. Line pita pockets with spinach leaves and tomato slices. Thinly slice lamb and fill pitas. Dollop generously with yogurt topping when prepared.
For topping: In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover and chill until serving time. If desired, topping may be prepared for 6 to 8 hours ahead and chilled until serving time.
Lamb Loin Marinated in Guinness and Clover Honey with Braised Cipollini Onions and Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes
6 cans (14.9 ounces each) Guinness beer or other dark beer
2 1/4 cups clover honey
6 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
6 tablespoons black peppercorns
6 (about 1 pound each) boneless lamb loin, trimmed of surface fat and silver skin
3 tablespoons, divided, olive oil
6 cups lamb or veal broth prepared from demi-glace
3/4 cup chilled butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
3 bunches chervil for garnish
Braised Cipollini Onions
6 tablespoons, divided, olive oil
48 Cipollini onions, peeled
4 1/2 cups reserved Guinness marinade
6 cups chicken stock
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons clover honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes
12 to 15 large Yukon Gold potatoes
9 tablespoons, divided, unsalted butter
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
For lamb marinade: In saucepan, combine beer, honey, thyme and peppercorns. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until honey dissolves; chill. Reserve 4 1/2 cups marinade for Cipollini onions, and reserve 4 1/2 cups marinade for sauce. Place lamb in nonreactive pan and pour remaining chilled marinade over lamb. Cover, refrigerate and marinate for 2 to 4 hours. Remove lamb from marinade and discard marinade.
To cook lamb: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Quickly brown lamb on both sides in batches, adding additional oil as needed. Place loins in shallow roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or to desired degree of doneness: 145 degrees for medium rare, 160 degrees for medium or 170 degrees for well-done. Cover and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Internal temperature will rise approximately 5 to 10 degrees upon standing.
To make sauce: Pour reserved marinade for sauce and juice from cooked onions into a saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to about 3 3/4 cups. Add the lamb broth from demi-glace to heat through. Add butter and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, keep warm.
For Cipollini onions: In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, cook and stir until browned on all sides. Cook in batches adding oil as needed. Using slotted spoon, transfer onions to roasting pan. Pour off excess oil and deglaze the skillet with reserved Guinness marinade. Cook until liquid is reduced to 3 cups. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil; pour over onions. Cover and bake in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until onions are tender. Remove onions from juice and keep warm. Reserve juice for lamb sauce. Just before serving, melt butter and honey in large skillet, add onions and cook over medium-high heat until glazed; season with salt and pepper.
For Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes: Cut potatoes into neat 3/4-inch squares. Melt 4 1/2 tablespoons butter in large skillet; add half of the potatoes and cook over medium-high-heat, tossing gently until lightly browned on all sides. Repeat process preparing all potatoes. Spread on full-sheet pan and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees until tender, about 10 minutes. Keep warm and toss with parsley just before serving.
To serve: Divide potatoes among 12 warm plates. Carve lamb loin and fan over potatoes; top with onions. Drizzle sauce all around the plate and garnish with chervil sprigs. Serve with remaining sauce.
- Recipes from the American Lamb Board