Spring is traditionally the time to eat lamb. Historically, during the season, young lamb was brought to market and was used in Easter and Passover celebrations. In modern times breeding takes place year-round and therefore you can find lamb anytime, with the exception of "spring lamb."
Mark Strausman, the executive chef at Campagna and Fred's at Barney's New York, visited The Early Show to take the mystery out of preparing delicious lamb chops in your own kitchen.
Strausman says people love eating lamb, but are intimidated to cook the tender meat. People tend to overcook it and they just don't attempt to prepare it again, he says. But it's not hard. Shopping for the correct ingredients and having confidence will make your dish tasty, says Strausman.
Lamb is actually a sheep that is less a year old. Known for its tender meat, baby lamb and "spring lamb" are both milk fed. Baby lamb is customarily slaughtered at between 6 and 8 weeks old. Spring lamb is usually slaughtered 3 to 5 months old. Regular lamb is slaughtered under a year of age. Lamb between 12 and 24 months is called yearling. When lamb is over two years old, it is referred to as mutton and has a much stronger flavor and less tender flesh. There are five USDA grades for lamb based on proportion of fat to lean. Beginning with the best, they are Prime, Choice, Good, Utility and Cull. Strausman says when purchasing lamb, let the color be the guide. In general, the darker color of the meat indicates an older animal. Baby lamb will be pale pink while regular lamb is pinkish-red. Lamb can be purchased as ground, steaks, chops and roasts.
Strausman says although lamb is a tender meat, it can handle strong flavors like oregano, or mint.
Blanch: To plunge food (usually vegetables and fruits) into boiling water briefly, then into cold water to stop the cooking process. Blanching is used to firm the flesh, to loosen the skins (as with peaches and tomatoes) and to heighten and set color and flavor (as with vegetables before freezing).
Sauté: To cook food quickly in a small amount of oil or other fat in a skillet or sauté pan over direct heat.
Cobbler: A cobble is a baked, deep-dish fruit dessert topped with a thick biscuit crust sprinkled with sugar.
Deglaze: After food (usually meat) has been sautéed and the food and excess fat removed from the pan, deglazing is done by heating a small amount of liquid in the pan and stirring to loosen browned bits of food on the bottom. The liquid used is most often wine or stock. The resultant mixture often becomes a base for a sauce to accompany the food cooked in the pan. Strausman uses white wine to deglaze the pan after he sautés the lamb chops. The white wine is then the base for a spring onion/garlic sauce he serves with the lamb chops.
His menu: an appetizer of Asparagus and Spring Pea Soup; and a entrée of Sautéed Lamb Chops with Spring Onions and Sugar Snap Peas with New Roasted Potatoes
Asparagus and Spring Pea Soup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium-size onion, minced
1 pound asparagus chopped up into 1/4-inch pieces
3 pounds shelled fresh peas or two 20-ounce bags frozen baby peas
4 cans chicken stock
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
extra-virgin olive oil for garnish
In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent (about 5 minutes). Do not brown. Add the asparagus, peas and cook, stirring (about 2 minutes). Reduce the heat to low, add the stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer 30 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender.
Working in batches in a blender, or using a hand blender, purees the soup until smooth. If the soup is too thick to blend, add a few tablespoons of carbonated or mineral water. Serve or set the pureed soup aside to cool. Serve hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.
Sautéed Lamb Chops with Spring Onions, Garlic and White Wine Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
black pepper from the mill
12 lambs chops all cut single bone
2 tablespoons butter
1 spring onion minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup of white wine
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
Order from a butcher the individual cut and the bones trimmed and cleaned -- they are better for the presentation. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil, salt and pepper the meat. When the oil is hot, slowly place the lamb chops in. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes on each side depending on how you like your lamb cooked. Then remove the meat and let sit on paper towels. Remove the oil and wipe the pan or excess oil. Then heat the butter over a medium flame and sautéed the spring onions and the garlic, add the white wine and let reduce for 5 minutes or until its almost thick. Add the lamb chops back (unless you like them rare), add the oregano and simmer over low heat until the sauce is thick and serve.
Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas with Olive Oil and Garlic
1 pound cleaned and blanched sugar snap peas
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic sliced
kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
In a large pot of boiling water with a large bowl of ice water next to it, start to blanch the sugar snap peas. Add them to the water and when they float count to five, remove and place them in the ice water. Do all peas before you start cooking them.
In a large frying pan add the olive oil and the garlic and sauté over a medium flame slowly cooking the garlic to golden brown. Drain the snap peas and add to the oil slowly, dry the snap peas add carefully to the oil, mix for 30 seconds and then add 4 tablespoons of water. Let the peas simmer until thick and coated. Add the last tablespoon of olive oil and then serve.
Campagna Roasted Potatoes
16 to 20 small white or yellow grade-B potatoes cut in half (about the size of golf balls; do not peel)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer in a nonstick baking dish or roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, dot with garlic and rosemary and drizzle with oil. Bake about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender all the way through when pierced with a knife. Serve immediately or set aside to cool to room temperature.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
3 1/2 cups strawberries
3 1/2 cups Rhubarb
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/2 pound flour
10 ounces sugar
8 ounces dark brown sugar
6 ounces walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound butter
Cut the strawberries and the rhubarb into 1/2-inch pieces. Boil the rhubarb until it is soft; mix with the strawberries and the rest of the filling ingredients. Place in an oval baking dish.
Mix all of the topping ingredients together until they look like little rocks and pebbles and place them on top of the filling and bake in a 300 degree F oven until the topping is golden brown and serve.