New Year, New Ewe!

Healthy eating is at the forefront of most everyone’s mind this month and along with it search for lean meats and proteins. Did you know Lamb delivers both?

A former “fatty”, Lamb has become significantly lean in recent decades due to better breeding systems and trimming methods. Today’s Lamb is low in “bad” (saturated) fat.

You don’t have to be sheepish when it comes to serving Lamb anymore.

Health Stats

►Calorically speaking, a three and half ounce serving of Lamb loin is only 6 calories more than an equal serving of salmon and about 11 calories less per ounce than beef.

►Lamb is a stellar source of protein. A serving of Lamb delivers a whopping 30 grams of protein, 54% of the daily recommended requirement for men and 65% for women.

►Lamb also provides a good resource of iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

►The niacin (vitamin B3) found in Lamb has been reported to provide protection against Alzheimer’s, promotes healthy skin and greatly retards the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

►Lean Lamb is a “selenium-rich food”. A mineral reported raising mood levels from poor to good, selenium is further known for its antioxidant properties which boost the immune system and promote good health.

Cuts & Cooks

► Upwards of 2,000 breeds of sheep have been arguably documented through the ages. Sheep meat is  categorized by age: Lamb, being less than a year old, Hogget, over a year old and Mutton, two years of age and older.

Fun Fact: Mutton fat was used to create macon during the WWII food rationing era as a substitute for bacon.

► Milk-fed, Young, Spring, Sucker, Yearling and Saltmarsh are global distinctions used in describing Lamb.

►Legs, loins, racks and chops are just some of the types of cuts of Lamb available today.

►Lamb can be roasted, grilled, boiled, stewed, skewered, braised (try it in wine with spices) and ground for burgers – yes, burgers!

► French, Mediterranean, and Welsh cuisines are among the most notable for Lamb. Rosemary, garlic, mint, tarragon, apricots, cucumber, nuts, tomatoes and yogurt are typical of the ingredients used in preparing center of the plate dishes and sauces.

Here’s a great recipe for Mediterranean style Lamb Chops adapted from the Niman Ranch cookbook:

Mediterranean Lamb Chops with                                 Cucumber-Yogurt Dip           

Lamb                                                                                                                                      

2 lamb racks, about 1 ½ lbs. each, frenched and trimmed                                                     5 T extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                           ¼ C loosely packed fresh rosemary leaves, chopped                                                            2 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped                                                                                             6 cloves garlic, chopped                                                                                                         1 t kosher salt                                                                                                                           1 t cracked black pepper

Dip

1 C plain whole-milk Greek style yogurt                                                                                  1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated                                                                                 3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled                                                                                                    2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                                           1 T extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                   Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Prepare Lamb  Place lamb in baking dish. Combine 4 T of olive oil with the rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub mixture over the lamb, coating evenly. Refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Prepare Dip  Combine yogurt, cucumber, cheese, garlic and olive oil in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until the flavors meld, at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.

Finish Lamb  Remove lamb from the fridge and let set for at least 1 hour. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over high heat. Wipe the marinade from the lamb and season the meat with salt and pepper. Add lamb to skillet meat side down and cook, turning once, for about 2 minutes per side until browned.

Transfer to oven and roast for about 12 minutes, or until thermometer inserted into the center away from bone reads 130ºF for medium rare.

Transfer the racks to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut each rack into individual chops and arrange on a platter. Serve the dip on the side. Makes 4-6 servings.

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From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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