lamb

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Shashlik (Шашлык) is a type of shish kebab commonly found in Russia and the former Soviet republics. It was likely brought to Moscow from Central Asia in the 19th century. Today, it’s a popular summer food cooked over an open fire at social gatherings. It’s traditionally prepared with lamb, but chicken, pork, and beef variations are becoming increasingly prominent. With summer in full swing throughout the country right now, I thought it would be a great time to share this tasty dish!

There are a few tricks that I came up with when developing this recipe that I think are pretty sweet. While the dish is traditionally marinated in either vinegar or lemon juice, I found that the combination of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar gives the meat a tangy and subtly sweet flavor. Secondly, leaving the salt out of the marinade and saving it for the last stage of the recipe provides for a really great complementary texture to the tender and juicy meat.

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There’s an old saying: lamb is a meat best grilled. Okay, that may not be an old saying, but it should be. Something about lamb and direct heat go together really, really well. So when Lava Lake Lamb sent me some of their lamb sirloin for a recipe, I knew it was going directly on the grill.

This recipe uses a simple marinade that combines maple syrup and spicy brown mustard to complement the lamb’s natural deliciousness.

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Bangers and mash is a traditional English dish and the quintessential “pub food”; it can be made for large groups of people at once with relative ease. This isn’t your standard bangers and mash dish since it’s typically served with beef or pork sausage and mashed potatoes, and I’m being crazy and using lamb sausage and colcannon. Regardless, this dish still has the same desired effect: it’s a hearty, savory dish that really hits the spot on a rainy day.

A perfect sausage for this dish was Lava Lake Lamb’s Rosemary and Garlic Sausage, which had a rich sausage flavor but was only slightly “lamby” in taste – in the end it was an excellent pairing of this savory sausage and the mild, buttery colcannon.

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Gyro meat, often referred to as doner or shawarma meat, is simply meat roasted on a rotating vertical spit and shaved off. Most Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern countries have some variation of this dish as a common street food. Depending on where you’re getting it, the meat can be made of lamb, beef, goat, chicken or a combination of meats. It’s one of my favorite meats of all time, and one that’s not easily replicated at home without a rotisserie setup. Lava Lake Lamb was gracious enough to send me some ground lamb recently, so I thought it was time to try and figure out how to make it on my own.

I spent a lot of time researching how to make authentic gyro meat at home, and in the end I found that Alton Brown’s approach was just about perfect. It involves processing the meat to make a thick paste, which is then stored for a couple hours before being cooked on the grill using a rotisserie or in the oven using a meatloaf pan. I went with the meatloaf pan variation with just a few adjustments, and it was awesome.

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Lamb is a delicate but rewarding meat; while a lot can go wrong when cooking it, when you get it right it’s an unforgettable experience. US Wellness Meats recently sent me one of their rack of lamb split loin roasts, and honestly, it was a little intimidating. Not only is this one of the most tender parts of the lamb, it needed some initial carving/butchering as well. Since one of my goals of this site is to make cooking less intimidating, I was happy to have the opportunity to demystify this formidable cut of beast.

I went with a French-inspired preparation of the dish. I carved the rack into a rolled loin roast, and used the leftover bone pieces to make an on-the-spot broth while the roast marinated. This broth then served as a base for my mint/parsley/mustard sauce.

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