MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB
by Robin Benzle
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow.
I rather grew to like it,
Especially baked in dough.
While lamb is a principle meat for most nations of the world - whether it be a mutton stew in a half-timbered pub in the English countryside; or a shish kabob with a side of belly dancer in a smoky Turkish cafe - for me, it remains a sort of black sheep in the meat category. All because of that childhood nursery rhyme.
I am torn at times between the thought of an endearing white ball of fur frolicking through a meadow of dandelions following Mary to school one day; and visions of a big ole honkin’ leg of it, roasted to a beautiful, garlicky bronze and shiny in its own juices. So I indulge only this time of year, when it’s in season, and eat the sweet, rich meat with passion like they did at love feasts in ancient China. And I think of Alfred Hitchcock who regularly sent his private plane from Hollywood to the farms of Pennsylvania to buy only the freshest lamb to eat. And I think of James Beard, who once said, “And that reminds me of that wonderful little lamb stew I had the other night - it was so wonderful you could cuddle it in your arms.” So after I eat just one more perfectly pink, tender loin lamb chop with my hands and lick my fingers clean, I promise I will eat nothing but broccoli until this time next year.
ALMOND-WALNUT LAMB CHOPS
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup whole, blanched almonds
2/3 cup walnuts
4 slices Italian bread, crusts removed
12 single rib loin lamb chops, 3/4” thick
Flour for dredging
4 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Clarify butter by melting in small saucepan over low heat. Cool and skim foam from surface. Discard foam.
In food processor using steel blade, finely chop almonds and walnuts. Transfer to a medium bowl. Process bread to fine crumbs and combine with nuts.
Preheat oven to lowest temperature. Dredge lamb chops in flour, dip in beaten egg, and coat well with nut mixture.
In large, heavy skillet, heat clarified butter and cook lamb chops a few at a time over medium-high heat, about 6 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and place in roasting pan. Keep warm in oven until all are cooked. Season with salt and pepper just before serving.
PEPPER-CRUSTED LAMB PATTIES
ON ENGLISH MUFFINS WITH BLEU CHEESE BUTTER
For muffins: 6 English muffin halves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
For patties: 1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground lamb
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for sautéing
1/4 cup dry red wine
Prepare muffins: Arrange halves on baking sheet. In food processor (or with fork), combine butter with bleu cheese. Spread on muffins and set aside. Preheat oven to broil.
Make patties: In a large skillet, sauté shallots in melted butter until soft, 3-5 minutes. Remove to a dish and set aside. Form 6 patties with the lamb. In a shallow bowl, combine flour with pepper and salt. Heat a little oil in the skillet, dredge patties in flour mixture and brown on both sides until done, about 10 minutes.
Drain any fat from skillet. Sprinkle cooked shallots over patties, pour wine over and cook over medium heat until is almost gone, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, broil muffins until golden. Place lamb pattie on top of muffin halves and serve immediately. Great with applesauce and a mound of steamed green beans.
BROILED LAMB CHOPS WITH ENGLISH MINT SAUCE
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
4 center-cut lamb chops, 1 1/4” thick
Sauce: 1/2 cup malt vinegar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup chopped, fresh mint leaves
Preheat oven to broil. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, rosemary, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. Place chops in roasting pan and brush both sides with oil mixture. Broil 10 minutes on each side, or until lightly pink in the middle.
Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small saucepan or skillet, heat vinegar over low flame. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in mint leaves and salt and simmer 3 - 5 minutes until slightly reduced. Spoon over chops.