Lamb is not for everyone. It is definitely an acquired taste. If you like it, you love it, but if you have not acquired a taste for lamb, you won’t like it, no matter how it is is prepared. I love lamb. Maybe eating lamb is just part of my Australian heritage. For me, the best way to eat it is nice and juicy, cooked to a perfect medium rare, leaning more towards the rare side. Lamb, like many other meats, is very versatile, and can be prepared in many, tasty and delicious ways. Often times, you can substitute lamb for beef in a lot of recipes, which adds a bit more variety and versatility.
Here in the United States, eating lamb is not nearly as popular as it is in many other parts of the world. We refer to all lamb meat as just “lamb”. In other parts of the world, where lamb is a staple meat that is part of the regular diet, there is also mutton, which is meat from the older, more adult sheep, where lamb is the term used for the younger, more juvenile sheep. Lamb meat once was a term that meant the flesh of a baby sheep that had not yet eaten grass, or that it was young enough that it was growing entirely from the ewe’s milk. Meat from such lambs are almost white when cooked. Once a lamb starts to eat grass the cooked flesh is darker and there is more flavor to the meat. Lamb meat is often considered to be “gamey” like a lot of other meats, such as buffalo or bison, venison or elk. The terms “gaminess” or “gamey” refer to the strong, tangy flavor and odor of some meats, particularly meats that are wild or livestock that is fed on wild grasses and foods, or animals that have abnormal dieting patterns. Most domestic livestock, at least here in the United States, is fed a diet of predominantly hay and other dried foods, that give the meat a milder, more even taste. Lamb, coming from the younger sheep, is a lot milder in taste than the meat that comes from mutton, which tends to be more gamey. If the strong gamey flavors are a bit much for your palette, cooking the meat with garlic and/or lemon juice, or something else acidic, will help eliminate the gamey characteristics. Cutting off a lot of the fat will also help eliminate the gamey qualities of meats. Soaking the meat in yogurt will help too, due to the acidity of the yogurt.
It was another cold night last night, with a hint of snow, making it perfect weather to have the oven on to roast the lamb and the vegetables. It was definitely good comfort food that helped warm us up, as well as the house. This was a fairly simple recipe, made with a few basic ingredients and herbs.
Roasted Lamb with Mustard-Herb Crust
2-3 lbs of lamb roast, trim most of the excess fat off
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
3 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 tsp each, fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage, chopped fine
1 TBSP garlic
salt and pepper
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
Pat the meat dry with a paper towel, then generously rub salt and pepper over the entire lamb and sear for about 4 minutes per side in a HOT skillet, with both butter and olive oil. You want the meat to be completely browned all over.
Preheat the oven to 350 * F or 180* C or 325* F if using a convection oven.
While the meat is cooking, make the mustard-herb sauce by mixing all the herbs, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil together, and combining everything together well. Once the meat is cooked, brush the meat with the mustard sauce, applying it generously all over the lamb. Save the left over sauce as a topping for the finished lamb.
Then coat the lamb with the breadcrumbs, making sure to gently press them into the meat.
Roast the lamb for at least 20-30 minutes if you like it rare to medium rare, or when the internal temperature reaches 125-130 degrees. Cook for longer if you prefer the lamb to be medium rare to medium or when the internal temperature reaches 135-140 degrees. I would not recommend cooking the lamb much beyond this temperature, at the risk of it becoming tough and dry. Once the lamb has been removed from the oven, let it cool for about 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Since I had the oven on for the lamb, I roasted my vegetables as well. We had roasted Brussels sprouts with pumpkin, garlic, shallots, and pecans, along with mashed sweet potatoes. I used some of the leftover mustard-herb sauce as my topping for the lamb, and served it all with a bold, velvety red blend. MMMMMM! It was definitely comfort food and it was definitely delicious.