Saturday, July 23, 2011

Culinary School Chronicles - Lamb

Last week's class was about stuffing pork chops and this weeks class was about stuffing and tying a boneless leg of lamb. Gross as it sounds, I was kind of hoping we'd get bone-in lamb so we could learn the technique for future reference.  Buying cuts of meat whole is generally much cheaper than buying the finished product and all it takes is a little elbow grease and practice to get the cutting right.

Today we were given previously frozen boned New Zealand lamb leg.

The first step, is to wash the lamb well and pat it dry with a paper towel.

You cut the leg open at the thinnest point and spread it flat on your cutting board.

When you look at the leg, you will see that the pieces of meat at the end are thicker than that in the centre.  Sliding your knife in, you slice down the middle of the meat almost through to the outside, then flip the meat out to create a butterfly cut.  Do the same on the other side.

Sprinkle the inside of the leg with salt and pepper. Spread your cooled stuffing (I'll get to that in a minute) across the inside of the lamb leg.

Starting at the more narrow end of the lamb (the bottom in this photo), start to roll the meat up like a sleeping bag, trying to keep it tight as possible.

If it all works out ok, it will look something like this.

Now you will need some butcher's twine.  The rule of thumb to truss a chicken is 1 times your arm span.

The rule for a leg of lamb of this size is 1.5 times your arm span.

Next, tie the end of the butcher's twine at one end of the lamb.

The motion to make - and it takes practice - is to hold out your left hand over the lamb, thumb in towards yourself.  Using your right hand pick up the long piece of the twine and loop it over your thumb, then your pinky finger, around under your hand, then twist your hand so your thumb points away from you , then rotate your hand until your palm is facing up.  Slip your hand out of the loop, then place it over the lamb and tighten.

Repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat until your entire lamb is tied off.  Something like this.

Wrap the remaining twine back over and around the lamb to secure the end pieces and create a nice compact package for cooking.

Brown your lamb, fat side down, in a 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, flip over and then place in a 350 degree preheated oven for about a hour for medium rare.  Check the internal temperature of the meat to your desired doneness.

To me, rare should read 130, Medium around 140 and well done around 150-155.  Remember that the lamb will continue to cook for a while once you remove it from the oven so it will come up 5-10 degrees in temperature while you let it rest.  Do let the lamb rest tented with foil for about 10 minutes before carving.

Serve with mint sauce.

Goat Cheese Stuffing:

1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 sprigs rosemary leaves removed and chopped
3-4 sprigs parsley,  leaves removed and chopped
3 sprigs mint, leaves removed and chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 ounces plain white goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a satué pan over medium high heat.  When hot, add onion and cook until golden brown.  Add garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes.  Add peppers and herbs and continue to cook for several minutes.  

Remove from heat, and transfer to a bowl.  Add mustard and goat cheese and combine.  The heat from the onions and peppers will soften the goat cheese so it melts into the vegetables.  

Set aside and let cool slightly before using on lamb.

Mint Sauce

2 bunches fresh mint, washed, picked and chopped
1/2 cup malt vinegar
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan, bring water and vinegar to boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat, and add sugar, chopped mint  and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes to infuse the flavour.  Adjust sweetness if needed.

To thicken the sauce slightly, disolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in about 1/3-1/2 cup water.  Add a little at a time to the sauce, allowing it to come to a boil between each addition so the true thickening power of the slurry is shown in the thickness of the sauce.

Incidentally, things referred to as sauces are thickened using a roux (could be a hot roux or a beurre manie) while things thickened with a cornstarch slurry are called a "jus lié (joo lee-yay). Chef always has interesting anecdotes.

Chef also recommended making a Sauce Robert to serve with lamb.  Sauce Robert is a brown mustard sauce made with chopped  onions cooked in butter until translucent, to which white wine, pepper, and demi-glace added and reduced, then is finished with mustard

Sauce Robert is one of the "small" or compound sauces made using Espagnole sauce (a mother sauce).  I read on Wiki that there are 78 compound sauces on record as catalogued by the great Marie-Antoine Carême who was a great chef in the times of Napoléon and the father of haute cuisine. Sauce Robert is one of the oldest compound sauces and was being used in kitchens in the late 1600s.

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