It’s (Not) Mutton, Honey!

Sometimes I think lamb gets a bad rap.  Maybe it is because people think it is a tiny bit gamy, or perhaps the idea of eating a fluffy white lamb seems worse than a not-so-cuddly cow.  Farm images aside, I happen to love lamb. 

I often make lamb at Eastertime, as is traditional in many cultures.  One year after a few glasses of wine, one of my guests admitted that he was a bit apprehensive about spending Easter with us when he found out I was making lamb.  However, no one gets away from my table without taking a “brownie bite” of everything, and our guest surprised himself by liking the lamb.  I’ve usually made a leg of lamb, although a rack of lamb is often seen as a little fancier (and pricier).  Recently, after receiving a freelance assignment to re-work an existing lamb recipe, I’ve become a big fan of lamb chops.  Lamb chops can be purchased bone-in or boneless, and both are tasty.  I prefer the boneless sirloin chops because they are a little less messy to deal with at the table, but either variety will yield flavorful results (the accompanying photo is of a bone-in chop).  I also love lamb steaks, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

Lamb chops are perfect for breading, and a combination of crunchy Japanese -style breadcrumbs (called “Panko” breadcrumbs) and fresh rosemary make for an attractive and fragrant dish.  When breading the chops it is necessary to bake rather than broil them so the breadcrumbs don’t begin to burn before the meat is cooked.  Lamb is best cooked to medium-rare, and definitely no more than medium (still a bit of pink). 

I also have become a fan of lamb steaks, which are usually a center cut of the leg.  Like the chops, they are relatively quick cooking and tasty.  I like to cook them on my outdoor grill in warmer weather, and simply put them under the broiler when I don’t feel like braving the elements.  I prepare them simply by rubbing with a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, freshly chopped rosemary and garlic. 

If you haven’t already, give lamb a try.  It really is a delicious, sweet meat and is not gamy at all.  Older lamb, usually referred to as “mutton” is a bit stronger in flavor, but young lamb (it should be light pink to pinkish -red) is really a treat.

 

Rosemary-Panko Crusted Lamb Chops

Serves 4
2 lbs lamb chops (4 bone-in shoulder chops or 8 small boneless sirloin chops)

2/3 cup Panko (Japanese style) bread crumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 small cloves garlic, minced
½  teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Combine the bread crumbs, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Brush both sides of each chop with mustard, and coat in  breadcrumb mixture.

Place chops on a rack on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until medium rare (the bone-in chops may take a few extra minutes of cooking time)

 

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