Friday, June 22, 2007

L.A.M.B.--Gwen Stefani's Got Nothing on Me!

I've never been all that excited about lamb before. It's just one of those things for which I've never acquired a real taste. We cooked it in the Regional American Cooking class, and it was okay, but lamb's never been anything that I would voluntarily order in a restaurant, no matter how good it sounds.

When I was at the store getting chicken for the 40 Cloves recipe, I noticed that there was a sale on lamb. The Man likes lamb...he seems to like it a whole lot, and I never cook it, so I thought I would surprise him with it. (Of course, I decided to make larger than normal portions of the sides in case I just couldn't eat it. Always, always have a back-up plan!)

I'm perusing the lamb cuts, and for some reason, I decided to go with a blade chop rather than a loin chop...they were a little less expensive, although, on the whole, lamb doesn't seem to be as expensive as you would think. The blade chop is cut from the rib or back side of the blade section of the shoulder. According to the Hormel website, "It is economical and flavorful and is a bit more tender than the arm chop. It is usually grilled, broiled, or pan-fried for the best results."

The main thing that bothers me about lamb is that it tastes "gamy." There's just that little somethin'-somethin' that tends to turn my taste buds off. So, I decide that I should marinade the chops to see if I can either improve, overcome, or mask that flavor.

I wander around on the Internet and manage to cobble together this marinade from several different recipes:

Marinade for Lamb
(suitable for approximately 4 chops; increase quantities as necessary)

2 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp paprika (preferably La Chinata sweet smoked paprika)

1 tsp kosher salt

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed/pressed

3 Tbs cider vinegar

5-6 Tbs olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Add chops to a plastic zipper lock bag and pour in the marinade. Seal bag and massage the marinade around the chops, making sure they are evenly coated. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 3 hours. Cook on grill, basting with the leftover marinade as needed. Cook for about 5-6 minutes per side for medium.

I flung those babies on the grill, steamed up some green beans, and made some pearl couscous (the big round ones), and we had a nice little dinner. The lamb rocked...I was extremely surprised at how good it was, based on my earlier fear and trepidation. It still had the lamb-y taste, but the flavors of the marinade/rub really enhanced it. The blade chops had a nice little marbling of fat, not too much to be greasy and overwhelming, but enough to really add some flavor. I'm definitely going to add more lamb chops into the dinner rotation. Not going to go for a whole leg of lamb or anything like that, but I'm taking the baby steps.

I think one of the things that made the marinade so tasty was the type of paprika I used. I discovered the La Chinata one at an international farmer's market, and immediately fell in love. (Don't even try to think about how weird it is to be in love with a spice...just roll with me on this one.)

If you ever thought paprika was just to add color to the tops of deviled eggs, think again. This paprika is so not your mother's paprika...unless your mother is from Spain. The La Chinata has a sweet, smoky smell and flavor like no other. Every time I smell it, I just want to roll around in it, like a cat with catnip. (Okay, maybe that really was too much information!)

What makes it different is that the peppers are smoked instead of sun dried before they are ground. And, interestingly, it seems to be one of the first (or maybe only) spice with designated DOC. DOC is Controlled Designation of Origin labeling, which means that only certain products from certain regions can be labeled as such. Think of wines from Bordeaux or Champagne, or even Vidalia onions. Only those items that are grown/produced in that region can have that designation. It's like a food trademark and designated by law. And, it's pretty fiercely protected by the people who produce the goods. Sure, you can probably grow Vidalia onions in Boise, but they can't be marketed as such.

Here's a site that give you tons more details about the La Vera region of Spain, where this paprika comes from, and about how it's made. Very interesting and tasty stuff, along with some recipes. I really do love this stuff, and I think you'd like it too. Amazon also has it, but it's a bit more expensive than the website I put in the ingredients list.

A Tip for the Garlic Chicken Post: I meant to mention this during the post, but I forgot...garlic fumes, I guess. For the white wine portion of the program, I usually buy the little picnic four-pack of some chardonnay or pinot grigio. We don't drink a lot of white wine at our house, and rather than open up a new bottle for a recipe, I use the little ones. You get about 1 - 1 1/4 cups of wine, depending on the size of the mini bottle, and it's perfect for those recipes where a little bit of wine does a body good. You could drink the rest of it, or put it in the fridge and use it again within the next week or so, and it should be fine. (I added this to the previous post.)

It's the weekend, and I'm having some folks over to splash in the pool and eat some grilled stuff. Have a good one yourself, and I'll post about the weekend grilling next week...doing some pork and chicken skewer experimentation!


Lin said...

Lamb! I'm a Yankee so I like lamb a lot. You don't see it in the stores much in the South so consider yourself lucky. I'll have to try your marinade. I usually buy a cheap cut of lamb and make lamb stew with eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini to serve over couscous. I've baked lamb but never grilled it. Thanks for the marinade recipe!

The smoked paprika sounds heavenly. I brought sweet paprika back from Hungary (of course). I had heard of "smoked" paprika but never seen it in the stores. I'll bet it would make a dynamite chicken papricash (sp?).

Belinda said...

But what cut is it that you use to beat someone to death, then cook and feed to the cops, a la "A Lamb to the Slaughter?" What? I'm the only morbid person around here? Oh, well.

Around here, anything "gamey" or fishy gets a good soaking in buttermilk prior to cooking. Then you can either incorporate it into the recipe (like with fried fish) or rinse it off and go from there. Wonder if that would work on lamb?

Jessie said...

I don't know what they did to it, but I had some fabulous lamp at St. John's Bar and Grill in London. I don't like the muttony taste, either, but this was one of the best tasting hunks o' meat I'd ever had!

Michael Warshauer said...

I'm a little late to this dinner party, but I'll testify to the seductive, addictive qualities of Pimentón de La Vera, especially "La Chinata".

My supplies are running low, and I hope to restock with a runner-up brand, "Dalia", at El Palacio de Hierro Department Store in Mexico City.

I feel a bit silly. I was just looking at the recently emptied can, at what I'd for years thought was a little airplane flying in front of the sun, and and I suddenly realized that the "airplane" was a cluster of capsicums.