Now that it has been a few days, I feel that I can speak objectively on the subject of lamb.
It’s not that I hated it.
It’s not even that I didn’t like it.
It’s not even really the lamb.
It’s that the purchase and preparation of said lamb became a journey of epic proportions on a very hot day upon which I woke already hot, still tired, and ragingly grouchy..
I also woke about three hours later than I had initially intended, which always just screws everything up.
In any case, as I rolled out of bed and reluctantly changed out of my pj’s I rifled through supermarket options in my head, trying to decide which one likely carried the best lamb. I decided Whole Foods was probably my best bet, so Hubby and I loaded ourselves up in my car and drove out into the 100º sunshine to begin what we figured would be a simple, easy errand.
Once in the air-conditioned store, I perked up a little bit and began grabbing ingredients off the shelves.
“Let’s see. Lemons: check. Garlic: check. What the heck are sea beans? Note to self: google ‘sea beans’ when we get home. (If you’re curious, answers here: http://www.seabean.com/what.asp. Apparently they have quite the fan following!) Okay, mint: check. Lamb….lamb….lamb? That’s it?!? That’s all they have???”
I glared accusingly at the sad rows of glistening, red loin chops and shoulder chops and legs of lamb, then glared accusingly at the poor man behind the counter.
You see, the recipe called for rib chops, and there was not a rib chop to be seen. Anywhere. And, while I’m all for changing up a recipe, I felt my lamb cooking qualifications (which amounted to none) somewhat limited me to following the cooking times and temperatures for the thinly sliced rib chops in the recipe, not monster-thick loin chops.
It was a real dilemma.
The man behind the counter helpfully offered to slice a lamb loin as thinly as he could get it, but at that point ragingly grouchy had progressed to stark raving mad and I couldn’t formulate enough of a sentence to even say “let me think a minute.”
Hubby grabbed my elbow and gently steered me and my steely gaze away from the cringing butcher.
“Give us a sec. Sorry.”
“What am I gonna do?!? They don’t have the right thing! It’s never going to work!! Now I can’t do this! I can’t cook the lamb and now the whole day is ruined and the whole Project will be ruined and now my whole existence is pointless. I might as well be dead. Waaaaaa!”
Hubby sighed and pulled out his cell phone. His iphone. The one which, just four short weeks ago, I mocked him mercilessly for buying then promptly commandeered and used to entertain myself during the endless drive across Nebraska. The one which enabled me to learn all about malted milk on a spur of the moment whim.
“Let’s see what Herb’s has.”
Herb’s Meat Shop (http://herbsmeats.com/default.aspx) is an amazing butcher shop filled to the gills with specialty meats and specialty cuts of specialty meats. Hubby swiftly googled the number and dialed and tried to hand his phone to me. I shoved it back at him with admirable maturity.
“I don’t wanna.”
He sighed again and held the phone to his ear.
“Yeah, I wanted to see if you have any lamb rib chops? You do? Do you have about 5 pounds worth? Great! Oh. Hmm.”
“They’re frozen. But they can thaw ’em.”
“Can they slice them to about 1/2 ” thick?”
He held the phone out to me again. “Want to ask?”
“Can you slice them about 1/2″ thick?
He says no, but we can slice them.”
“I can’t slice rib chops!?!”
“Do we have a steak knife?”
“Then he says we can slice them.”
“Oh. Um. Ok.”
We rushed through the checkout line, and after a quick snack (my attitude almost always improves after a quick snack) we scurried to the car and started heading in the general direction of Herb’s. South and east and out of the Bubble of Familiarity commonly known as Boulder. Hubby used his cell phone (yes, the iphone. Let it be known far and wide that the iphone is a thing of wonder, and my Hubby a brilliant genius for buying one. It has more than once put us within life-saving proximity of coffee, food, hotels and meat. Amen.) to map us into the parking lot, and we pushed through into a veritable air-conditioned Shangri La of carnivorous delight.
There was fresh meat, frozen meat, red meat, white meat, ground meat, cuts of meat, smoked meat, raw meat, tiny bits of meat and dinosaur-chop-sized chunks of meat. Herb’s is also a thing of wonder.
The man behind the counter smiled at us as we came through the door and our jaws dropped. Hubby headed straight in and began taking a mental inventory for future reference.
“Did you call about lamb?”
“Yes. Do you have any?”
He dropped three large, frozen packages of racks of lamb ribs on the counter.
“This what you’re looking for?”
“See these bones here? You can just slice between ’em. The bones on the ends have been removed so you can just cut right through. Just throw these packages in the sink with some cold water when you get home and they’ll be thawed in about 45 minutes.”
I almost cried. The search was over! I would have hugged the guy if it weren’t for the counter between us. And the large cleaver in his hand. And the thoroughly bloodied apron. And a number of other factors.
(We only went to two places and I almost fell to pieces. Who know what’ll happen next time. I’m beginning to think I don’t think I have the stamina for epic food searches.)
We loaded our racks of lamb into the car, loaded ourselves in the car, and once we got home I promptly got to work. After thawing the rib racks, I sliced them (even easier than I imagined!) and marinated them for a few hours in lemon, garlic, mint and olive oil. Just a few minutes over blazingly hot charcoal and dinner was served (recipes and photos to follow soon!).
And bottom line?
The first chop was a revelation! Burned just enough to be charred and smokey, but still tender and juicy inside. The marinade a soaked all the way through so the meat was full of the flavors of garlic and lemon without any offensive taste from the lamb itself.
“I. Love. Lamb!” I declared!
The second chop…maybe it was just the way it was cooked, but I detected a distinct lamby flavor in it. It wasn’t a meaty flavor. It wasn’t a strong flavor. I thought it was a kind of musty flavor…like maybe the meat got left on a shelf a little too long and got dusty. It wasn’t overpowering, but once I got the taste in my mouth I couldn’t get it out. The third chop was about the same and that was enough for me.
So, anyways. Lamb was a success…followed by less success, followed by the decision that I may need to have it a few more times in a few different ways before I can really make up my mind.
I don’t love it.
But I don’t hate it.
I nothing it.
But it’ll be worth giving it another try.