Lamb: For Easter or Passover

Orlando Magic fans cheer as team members arrive at Amway Arena in Orlando, Fla. before Game 5 of the NBA finals between the Magic and Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, June 14, 2009.
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
As meats go, lamb marries well with pungent flavors like: garlic, mustard, rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, and fennel for starters. Similarly, it goes well with exotic spices in Indian curries and North African tagines (Moroccan stews featuring meat simmered with vegetables and spices) and couscous.

Still, this meat's flavor is delicate enough to complement tender spring vegetables such as fresh peas, fava beans, baby carrots, or asparagus tips. The Complete Meat Cookbook notes, "Like pork, lamb has an underlying sweetness that pairs beautifully with dried fruits and nuts - the prunes, figs, dates, apricots, roast almonds, and walnuts" often found in Moroccan and North African dishes.

Lamb at a glance:
To be labeled "lamb," a sheep must be slaughtered before it is a year old. But most lambs are sent to market by the time they are eight months or younger. "Spring lamb," a term used years ago, was given to those animals born in the spring. The term was also indicated freshness and quality. Today the term isn't used much at all because advances in animal husbandry allow for lambs to be born year-round.

Generally lamb chops are sold on the bone, regardless of their size or what part of the lamb they come from. The loin and rib are the most tender and best chops.

Rib Chops - More fat; therefore, the meat is more tender. Ideal for grilling.

Loin Chops - Leaner than the rib chop; contain the characteristic T-bone of the loin; the most expensive chop. Ideal for grilling.

Lamb, because it is young and tender, can be cooked by dry-heat methods - grilling, roasting, and broiling. Each method of cooking can be enhanced if the lamb has been brushed with a dry spice rub or marinated first.

Selecting and cooking lamb chops:
When buying lamb, look for meat that is pink in color and the cross-sections of bones are red, moist and porous. The external fat should be firm and white and not too thick. There is a degree of marbling in this cut of meat, but it's hardly perceptible in very young lambs, like the hothouse lamb or the baby lamb. Marbling does become more obvious in older varieties.

Best Buys: Lamb sirloin chops and roasts, shoulder, butterflied leg.

Luxury Cuts: Rack of lamb (Frenched and trimmed), lamb tenderloin, crown roast, lamb T-bone chops, whole lamb loin.

Overlooked Cuts: Lamb breast, lamb riblets, lamb flank steak, lamb shoulder roast, lamb neck (makes great stew)

How To Store Lamb
Two to four days refrigerated; well wrapped and frozen, up to six months.


Lamb Chops with Vinegar, Honey, Mint Sauce and Roasted Garlic Potato Gratin

Serves 4


3 tablespoons olive oil
8 domestic lamb rib chops
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint


Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Cook chops on both sides for 3-4 minutes or until cooked to medium doneness.

Remove chops from pan to a platter. Add the vinegar to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up any bits of brown on the bottom of the pan, and cook for 1 minute. Pour the vinegar into a medium bowl and whisk in honey and mint. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the lamb chops.

Roasted Garlic Potato Gratin

Serves 4


2 cups heavy cream
1 head of garlic, roasted and pureed
4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise (on a mandolin) into 1/8 inch thick slices
Salt and fresh ground pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring cream to simmer in a medium nonreactive saucepan and whisk in the garlic.
Make a layer of potato slices in a 9 x 9 inch casserole, season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with a 1/4 cup of the cream. Repeat to yield 8 layers.
Bake, covered for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown on top.

Take an interactive look at the Principles of Judaism — Traditions, Holidays and Laws.