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Getting back to Lamb

As a kid… no lamb pun intended… Wait, that's a goat joke, young lambs are called baby lambs. See how much you know…

Anyhow, as a youngster I recall having lamb chops. The best part was the mint jelly. After I moved out on my own, I never ate lamb anymore. One day I took my children into a petting zoo (not the one pictured above--it's just a representation). It smelled pretty gamey. The next time I did eat lamb it tasted the same as that petting zoo smelled, so I never had lamb after that. Years later, I was at the Lamb Jam foodie event in Seattle and I tried lamb again. This time it was quite good. I learned that that lamb had come from Anderson Ranch in Oregon. What were they doing that made it so good?

If you've shied away from lamb because you had some that was too gamey, follow along and search out some nice local lamb.

Like good wine, lamb's characteristics come from its terroir. Where it's raised, what it's fed and other factors determine the flavor of the meat. Typically, lamb raised in New Zealand or Australia will impart that gamey flavor I detest. But lamb raised here in the Pacific Northwest has a much milder, less gamey flavor to it.

Like beef, most American lamb is grass fed/grain finished, but some are simply 100% grass fed.

Grass fed/grain finished results in a fattier lamb, the meat has more marbling providing supposedly more flavor and a lot of the bad Omega 6, but little of the good Omega 3, since that's lost during the grain finish.

However, 100% grass fed lambs are full of Omega 3 and my experience is they have a decent amount of fat, which, because it's not loaded with Omega 6, is perfectly fine to eat. Modern science has now proven that the fat on grass fed animals won't make you fat - so enjoy.

The next time you're out dining and see lamb on the menu, ask where it was sourced from. Many better establishments source their lamb from Anderson Ranch in Oregon. It's unlikely you'll find anyone serving 100% grass fed lamb in the Puget Sound, but that would be a bonus in my book.

If you want to indulge in 100% grass fed lamb, stop by any PCC market and ask for it.

Lamb is available all year, but there is talk that lambs brought to market may differ in flavor based on the season. Only one way to find out for sure. You'll need to indulge your taste buds in lamb at least four times a year.

Some think that Rack of Lamb is for special holidays only. Maybe Easter. Many restaurants only add it to the menu during special holidays.

But you can source a rack of lamb from a better market any time of year. If you don't see it, it won't hurt to talk to the butcher about a special order. On a recent visit in October I could have picked up a nice rack of lamb, priced at $20 lb. A typical rack clocks in at around 2 pounds. $40 - Not a bad price to pay knowing it provides 4 servings.

Roasting lamb will provide the most tender finish, over pan frying or grilling. And like any good meat, it's always best to put the rub of your choice on in advance and oil it with Extra Light (not virgin) Olive Oil just before cooking to seal in the juices.

Medium rare seems to be the favored temperature among others I've discussed cooking lamb with over the weeks.

Okay. I'm back to lamb, having enjoyed it three times in the last three weeks. How about you?

Tom Mehren/November 2017

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