By SIMON WEBSTER
Spring is in full swing and pretty soon summer will be on our doorstep. But while we still have some mild temperatures and cooler nights, now is the time to plant some vegetables and herbs.
One that I particularly like, for many purposes, is mint. Its sweet smell fills the air, and as I walk past the garden and notice the scent my mouth begins to water because it reminds me of lamb.
Many believe they don’t like lamb. They associate it with a strong, gamey flavor and early attempts at trying it have been not so good. Well here’s the secret that I figured out with my good friend Rob Bass, a lamb rancher in Palestine. It’s not the age of the lamb that affects the flavor, it’s the weight.
Once the lamb reaches 100 pounds the meat will be tougher, the flavor strong and the fat content goes up. Rob makes sure he gets the lamb to the processor at about 90 pounds to ensure the best flavor in the meat.
Rob and his wife Joy have been raising St. Croix sheep at The Just Right Ranch since 2006. They use their flock for breeding, stud services and sell the meat for sheep designated for processing.
I have been lucky enough to receive a whole lamb from the Basses on a few occasions. The processor, or butcher, will create chops, roasts, loins, ground meat – whatever cut you like.
Typically, I will pick mine up whole and butcher it myself in whatever cuts I want to have. One of my favorite cuts is a bone-in leg of lamb. It’s very easy to cook and is just like doing a roast.
If you can’t get your lamb meat from The Just Right Ranch, Sam’s Club in Tyler carries New Zealand lamb. They almost always have loins, chops and legs in stock. The flavor is wonderful and if you haven’t had lamb in awhile I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
ROASTED LEG OF LAMB
5 pound leg of lamb
Cracked black pepper
1 bunch rosemary
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
Roughly chop the rosemary. Rub the leg with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Roast for about 2 hours, depending on the size of the leg, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of meat registers 140 degrees.
FRESH MINT SAUCE
1 bunch of mint
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons very hot water
1/4 cup malt vinegar
Pull mint leaves off of the stems. Place on a cutting board and chop finely. Sprinkle the sugar over the mint and continue to chop. Place the mint and sugar in a small bowl. Cover with the water and allow to steep for a couple of minutes. Add the vinegar and salt to taste. Serve at the table with the lamb.
Simon Webster is the Executive Chef of Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro a multi-faceted dining destination just outside Palestine. For more information go to www.saborapasion.com or call 903-729-9500.