Sunday, December 01, 2013

I leave now for the butcher

Anything Mark Bittman, food writer for The Times, tells you to do, you should just do.  I was thinking about lamb chops last night and then, this morning, I came upon this ...

Not long ago, in certain circles, serving anything other than the most tender and expensive rib or loin chops — in the form of a “rack” or a “meat lollipop” — to respectable company was considered déclassé. Leg and shank eventually got their dues — and now the shoulder has finally arrived.

It’s about time, because all things considered, it’s the best major cut of lamb. (The best minor cut might be the neck, or even the kidney or tongue, but we’re not addressing “specialty meats” here.)
Though far less glorified than rib chops or legs, lamb shoulder is explosively delicious and juicy. Like the shoulders of pigs and cows, it is a hardworking muscle rippled with intramuscular fat, which makes it ideal for the stewing or braising that’s requisite this times of year.

But the shoulder’s not that hardworking, which keeps it tender enough to be subjected to the shorter blasts of heat typically reserved for more elegant cuts. You can roast a whole shoulder (or chunks or slices of one) in a hot oven, and it will be crisp and juicy.

That's all you need to know about why I'm going to the butcher.  But if you click here, you can read not only the full text of the article but twelve recipes for lamb shoulder.  If I'm allowed a quibble, and it surely feels like biting the hand that feeds you, I would have preferred that the photos of the finished dishes (upon which you click to reveal the recipe) had the titles on them as well.

Here's the recipe for his garlic, dill and potato roast ...

Heat oven to 400. Rub a 2-pound piece of boneless lamb shoulder with a mixture of chopped dill, minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roll and tie (or just roll into a uniform roast). Marinate in the fridge for a few hours if you have time. Spread small or cut-up potatoes in a roasting pan; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and lay lamb on top. Roast until the lamb reaches 130 (for medium rare), 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Slice and serve with pan juices.

What idiot couldn't do this?  Lord have mercy -- just one more reason to be thankful winter is coming.

There's a more formal version of this recipe, as is typical with The Times.  What made me smile was the complete absence of any quantities.  Usually it's a teaspoon of this and 500 mL of that.  The ingredients here are just garlic, dill, olive oil, salt and pepper, period.  Just grab some and throw it in.  Plus, of course, the shoulder and the potatoes.  But, I repeat, what idiot couldn't cook this?

My mother was a wonderful cook in that sort of 60s era chicken breasts in cream of mushroom soup on rice kind of a way.  Even today, maybe once a year or so, I buy a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, just to savor the memory.  But her best dish, by a mile, was leg of lamb.  All I remember was that she used to make tiny slices in the surface of the leg and insert slices of garlic.  Then later the whole house would smell of garlic and lamb.  

I'm comin' home, Ma!  I'm comin' home. 


Blogger John Harbour said...

My wife who doesn't like lamb, if you can believe that, will be out of town in Feb. I'm putting in my order for a shoulder with my local butcher as I, for one, love lamb. Thanks for the post.

12:31 PM  

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