Sheep breeders know there's more on a lamb than a leg

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Jean Noon is a sheep breeder who hopes Americans will expand their lamb consumption to include more than an occasional leg, chops, or expensive rack of lamb.

''Most people stick to the leg of lamb and chops these days,'' she says. ''They don't seem to know what to do with a lamb shoulder, and they don't realize how delicious lamb shanks can be.

Jean knows a lot about cooking lamb and would like people to try the juicy, tender neck meat for stews, as well as lamb liver, which rivals calves liver.

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''Mutton is also delicious if it is prepared properly,'' she says. ''Mutton, a year older than yearling, has a more authoritative flavor, which some people say they don't like. I think it's because it hasn't been cooked properly.

''I've learned to cook it slowly and to make sure it has been aged properly, '' she continues. ''I have most of the mutton ground, and I use it in a lot of recipes that call for beef.

''Even before we had sheep . . . Bill and I ate lamb shanks because they taste great and were less expensive.

''Our favorite is a completely Maine recipe that I call a 'ewe burger.' It's made of ground lamb and shredded potato.'' Lamb With Celery, Avgolemono 2 tablespoons butter 1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut in 2-inch cubes 1 large onion, chopped 1 cup water 2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dillweed Salt and pepper 3 cups celery cut in 2-inch pieces (see variations below) 2 eggs 1 tablespoon flour 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Melt butter in saucepan with tight cover; brown lamb and onion. Add water, dill, salt, and pepper to taste. Add celery; bring mixture to boil.

Turn down heat and simmer gently about 1 1/2 hours, or until lamb is tender. Remove from heat.

In bowl, beat eggs with flour and lemon juice. Pour some of hot lamb juices over egg to warm mixture, then return to pan.

Tip pan to distribute avgolemono sauce evenly and serve immediately to 4.

Variation: Cut flowerettes from 1 pound broccoli, peel stems, and cut in bite-size pieces. Add to meat 30 minutes before it is done. Barbecue Baste for Lamb 1 tablespoon honey 2 tablespoons mustard

Combine, then brush on lamb while broiling with charcoal. Baked Lamb Shanks 4 lamb shanks Salt and pepper 1 clove garlic, finely minced 1 large onion, thinly sliced 1/4 cup olive oil 1 cup tomato sauce 1 cup water 1 eggplant, about 1 pound 2 large tomatoes, peeled, halved, and seeded 1/2 teaspoon rosemary 4 potatoes, peeled and quartered, about 1 1/2 pounds

Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Arrange in baking pan large enough to hold meat and vegetables.

Spread garlic and onion slices evenly over lamb and sprinkle with olive oil. Pour on tomato sauce and water; bake in preheated 375 degrees F. oven.

While lamb is cooking, cut eggplant into 8 wedges, sprinkle liberally with salt, and let drain for about 30 minutes. Wash with cold water and dry thoroughly.

After lamb has cooked 45 minutes, add eggplant, tomato, rosemary, and potato to pan. Bake 45 minutes more or until vegetables and meat are done, basting 2 or 3 times. Serves 4. Maine Lamb and Potato Patties 1 pound ground lamb 1 1/2 cups grated raw potato 1/2 cup minced onion 1 large egg 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1/2 cup milk 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 cups milk More salt and pepper to taste

In medium-size bowl, mix together ground meat, grated potato, onion, egg, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup milk. Shape into slightly flattened patties.

Melt butter in large skillet and saute patties over low heat, turning once until golden brown and tender. Remove to warm platter and keep in warm oven while preparing gravy.

Sprinkle flour over contents of skillet. Gradually add 2 cups milk, stirring up browned bits on bottom of pan; simmer 5 minutes.

Taste, then add more seasoning if necessary. Pour gravy over patties and serve immediately to 4.

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