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Americans eat a lot of red meat, and by “red meat” what I mean is beef (the kind that went “moo”).  By comparison, we eat far less lamb.  The average American consumes a staggering 65 pounds of beef per year in contrast to ½ pound of lamb.  The question is: why?  Practically speaking, America is not breeding and processing as much lamb as say, Greece, whose culture and traditions are replete with sheep herding, pasturing and culinary tradition.  With less supply and demand in the States, those little baby lamb chops have become an expensive occasional treat, not exactly the norm of every-night cooking.   Despite that, lamb is still a great source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, phosphorus, and manganese and also very low in sodium content.  So perhaps it’s time to mix it up and enjoy this distinctly tender sweet meat, a flavor all its own especially when grilled or broiled.

Knowing your lamb…

Ever wonder what the difference is between lamb and mutton? Lamb and baby lamb?  It’s always good to clarify and know just what we are eating!   A lamb is defined as a young sheep less than one year old; a baby lamb is generally between six and eight weeks old and is prized for its very tender pale pink meat.  Sheep generally breed in the fall and birth in late winter/early spring…which is why Spring is synonymous with lamb.  “Spring lambs” are generally between 3-5 months old when slaughtered.   Age matters in terms of taste – the younger and smaller, the tastier and more tender.  Mutton is meat from a sheep over two years old, and has a much less tender and darker flesh with a gamier flavor (perhaps a reason it has been unpopular in the United States).

Bring out the flavor…

I love braising some of the tougher cuts of lamb, like lamb shanks, for a wintry stew, but it’s often a tough sell with kids because of the gamey odor  (“ma, are you cooking my gym shoes?”) infamously associated with lamb cookery.  So if potting your lamb dish, do select the freshest meat you can get.    Pairing lamb with refreshing aromatics also quiets any gaminess and accentuates its true flavor – mint and lamb is a natural marriage, but other herbs and citrus work well, too.  In the spring and summer, I head outdoors and fire up the grill, as open fire cooking seems to eliminate any off-putting odor (and the bugs don’t mind anyhow!).  Well-grilled lamb yields wonderfully succulent results, and my kids ask for seconds and thirds to boot!

Grilled Lamb Chops with Balsamic-Mint Reduction

Serves 4.

  1. 12 Baby Lamb chops (about 1” thick), frenched*
  2. Kosher salt
  3. Freshly ground black pepper
  4. Oil for greasing grill

Preheat grill on high (to about 450 degrees).  Grease grates of grill (an oil-soaked wad of paper towels and tongs do a good job of this.)

Season chops liberally with salt and pepper.  Place lamb chops on grill and close cover.  Grill for about 4 minutes per side, turning once during cooking.  Transfer to a platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Drizzle Balsamic Mint Reduction (a little goes a long way!) over lamb chops and serve.

*To “French” means to cut the meat away from the end of a rib or chop, so that part of the bone is exposed.  Park East Kosher is happy to do this upon request.

Balsamic-Mint Reduction

An intense sauce that can be made ahead and stored for months in the refrigerator.   Decorate a plate with a drizzle for an appealing presentation and real flavor boost!

  1. 1 cup high-quality balsamic vinegar
  2. ¼ cup honey
  3. 2/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  4. Kosher salt
  5. Freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 tbsp. margarine

Bring vinegar, honey and mint to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until mixture is reduced by half – consistency should be syrupy and coat the back of a spoon (about 15-20 minutes).  Add the margarine and whisk until blended.  Strain out leaves and season sauce with salt and pepper.   (If making ahead, rewarm before serving.)


By Naomi Ross


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