Lamb 3 Ways
By June Naylor
Photos by Meda Kessler
A generation of ranchers, not wanting to share their pasturelands with anything other than cattle, eschewed lamb both on the hoof and on the table. But times and tastes change, and even in Texas, lamb has become a welcome Easter dinner tradition.
If you think you don’t like it, we’re willing to wager you just haven’t enjoyed the right kind, properly prepared. Domestic lamb tends to be the mildest; we like the grass-fed local selections available at Central Market and specialty butchers such as Burgundy’s Local and The Meat Board in Fort Worth. Tom Thumb also carries the Open Nature line of hormone-free and grass-fed lamb cuts. Bonus: Lamb is leaner than most beef, and it’s high in nutrients. Instead of a rack of lamb or chops, opt for a leg, boneless or not. Bone-in offers a bit more flavor and juiciness; ask the butcher to butterfly the cut to save you a little time. Best of all, you’ll have leftovers. We include a couple of options for second-day servings.
FRESH OFF THE GRILL
Roasting a rack of lamb is a snap, but grilling a leg is mighty easy, too. Marinate the meat in a blend of olive oil and lemon juice, plus salt and pepper; wrap in foil and refrigerate overnight. At grilling time, bring the lamb back to room temperature, brush the hot grill with oil and cook the leg on both sides till the internal temperature is 125 degrees for medium-rare, typically 30 minutes. Don’t cook more than that or the meat won’t be silky tender. For boneless lamb, grilling time depends on size. Pull it from the grill, let it rest 10 minutes, then serve — sliced against the grain — with an herb pesto (recipe follows), roasted new potatoes and grilled asparagus.
This herbaceous version of pesto is a favorite of restaurateur/chef Lou Lambert, who has grilled and roasted a lot of lamb at his camp cooking classes near the family ranch in Marfa.
Lou’s Mint Pesto for Lamb
Makes 2 cups
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
- ¼ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons pecan pieces, lightly toasted
- Juice of 1 lemon • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup olive oil Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Store in refrigerator in airtight container; it keeps for
— From Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook: Recipes From Lambert’s Texas Kitchens by Louis Lambert with June Naylor
Whip up a deluxe Greek salad with slices of lamb atop butter lettuce dressed with grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, chopped cucumber, thinly sliced red onion and crumbled feta cheese. Dress with a homemade garlic aioli. Combine 1 egg, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove and ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard in a blender. With the blender on a low speed, slowly add ½ to ¾ cup olive oil, allowing the mixture to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill before serving.
Taking a page from Fort Worth chef Juan Rodriguez’s manual of entertaining at Magdalena’s, we finely chop lamb and tuck it into warm corn tortillas along with poblano crema (blend roasted poblanos with crema and a bit of sour cream) and cilantro chimichurri. If we’re feeling industrious, we serve baked or air-fried sweet potato chips alongside.