Serving Leg of Lamb
Lamb is one of those foods so rich in protein that a single serving goes a long way toward meeting the day’s allowance. More important, as a lean cut, leg of lamb does this without excessive calories and fat.
eating-in.blogspot.com Lamb shanks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lamb is loved the world over and for many of us is a special treat. We are delighted to find that our favorite cut of lamb – the leg – is also the leanest and most nutritious.
Lamb is one of those foods so rich in protein that a single serving goes a long way toward meeting the day’s allowance. More important, as a lean cut, leg of lamb does this without excessive calories and fat. In fact, a 4-ounce serving, trimmed of fat, has only 8 grams of fat – a moderate level compared to fatty meats.
Like other lean meats, lamb also supplies plenty of the “big three” B vitamins – thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. But most of us get all we need of these easily, so we would rather concentrate on something in lamb that too many of use run short on – the mineral iron.
A serving of lamb provides a healthy dose of iron, but the amount alone is not the only issue. Some of the iron in lamb is the heme type that is most easily absorbed by the body. In addition, lamb has some yet unidentified factor that also helps us absorb more of the iron in other foods.
Choose lamb that is pink to red fleshed and tightly grained. The fat should be cream colored and flaky, not greasy in appearance.
On the average, a whole leg of lamb weights about 7 pounds. You can buy it several ways. For a big crowd, try it boned and butterflied. For a smaller group, buy half a leg that includes either the sirloin or shank portion. Get to know your butcher and he will cut your lamb to order.
Wrap the lamb loosely in waxed paper and store in the coldest part of the refrigerator. It will last about five days. For longer storage, freeze it wrapped in freezer paper. Frozen lamb will keep for up to a year. If you buy frozen lamb, however, do not refreeze it.
Whole leg of lamb has a covering of fat called silver that should be removed before cooking because it cannot be chewed. Again, a friendly butcher can remove this for you.
To cook lamb, roast, grill, broil, bake, or braise it. Robust barbecue type marinades as well as lemon, garlic, rosemary, onion, citrus, or mustard complement it well. You will get best results with short cooking at high heat. Long, slow dry methods will leave the meat tough and stringy. It is recommended that roasting at about 450 degrees until a thermometer shows an internal temperature of 170 degrees is best.
Lamb is classic with eggplant or mint. Serve lamb with apples and onions over pasta or rice. Some other ideas are:
Chunks of lamb can be used instead of beef in kabob recipes.
Lime juice and hot pepper sauce will make a tasty low calorie marinade.
Ground lamb makes good burgers and is terrific in lasagna.
Thinly sliced leftover roasted lamb can be added to a pasta or marinated vegetable salad.
One final note about lamb. Lamb is from a young animal. Flavor and texture are best from those slaughtered young. Meat from an animal that was more than 18 months old is actually not lamb but mutton. It has a stronger flavor and can be substituted in most lamb recipes if the cooking time is increased by about 7 minutes per pound. Moist cooking methods, such as stewing are best for mutton.