Sunday, July 20, 2008


I am surprised by how many of my acquaintances dislike lamb.

For me, lamb is a treat. It has more character than most of the meats you will find in your average grocery store. It is not a taste everyone enjoys, though.

"Lamb is gamey." That's a complaint I've heard a lot.

But that's what makes it better than other meats! It's more interesting; its scent has an intriguing undercurrent of olives. It's tender, and when cooked, it has a lovely rosy hue.

What is it about lamb that some people don't like?

A friend of mine, a woman who is fairly adventurous in most respects, recently admitted that she dislikes lamb. She said that she is game (get it?) for trying a recipe of my recommendation, though, acknowledging that perhaps she has not yet found a recipe she can enjoy.

This Mark Bittman recipe seems like a good starting place. Lamb chops are lean and they are not too expensive. The savory beans and tomatoes could be a meal by themselves, if you find that you are not enchanted with the taste of lamb.

Do not approach this recipe with trepidation, however. C'mon, become a convert!

Lamb Chops with White Beans
Adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe in How to Cook Everything

1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 15-ounce can of white beans
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup cored and chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage
4 one-inch lamb chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup of red wine
1/2 cup of chicken stock or water
Minced fresh sage for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Drain and rinse the beans, then add them to the saucepan. Add the garlic, tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf, and stir gently to mix. Allow the beans to come to a simmer, and reduce the heat to low. Stir every few minutes.

Meanwhile, grease a heavy oven-safe skillet. Rub the chopped sage onto both sides of each lamb chop and season with salt and pepper. Place the lamb chops in the skillet. Pour the wine and chicken stock into the skillet around the chops. Cover the skillet with a lid or aluminum foil and place it in the oven. Cook the chops for 20-25 minutes (depending on whether you prefer them medium rare or medium).

Remove the cover from the skillet. Pour the beans into the skillet around the chops. Simmer for another 5-8 minutes over medium heat.

Garnish with some minced fresh sage and serve. See the light.

Serves: 2


Giff Constable said...

Meal sounds great!

Here's an uneducated guess: I think many Americans have learned that lamb is "gamey" because the lamb so many supermarkets used to carry is more mutton than lamb (ie the animal is allowed to grow too large, and is too old). I remember walking into a butcher shop in New York City with my wife, an aussie, and having her be shocked at the size of the shank -- she wasn't going to cook with that. It was an interesting lesson for me, since I hadn't really known anything else.

I wonder if that is changing, since the US is importing more new zealand lamb.

It actually seems like, after many years of big supermarket companies killing the flavor of things (peaches is a classic example) for mass production or shipping hardiness, Americans are demanding natural foods and proper flavors again.

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

I adore lamb and would be happy to eat those chops anytime! They look fabulous!

dp said...

I love love love lamb! It's not something I grew up eating, though, so it took me a couple of times eating it before I liked it. I prefer ground lamb to beef burgers and if I'm using meat in Indian food, it's usually lamb.

About that game-y taste...I've found that fresh lamb rarely tastes this way. It's the stuff that's vacuum packed that often does. Just an observation.

Foodycat said...

I just had a cold bbq lamb chop for lunch... I had no idea Americans had that view! They should try some new season spring lamb - soft as butter and such a delicate flavour. I prefer hogget (a year old but not yet mutton) which is what we usually get in Australia.

Kelly said...

That looks so delicious..and yes I am one of those who had said it 'tastes gamey' however..I was pregnant so my taste buds were outta wake anyway..this makes me want to give it another go. Yumm. :)

Ali said...

I found your post on foodbuzz. Interestingly, I just posted about a lamb recipe that might make me convert:

It's an EDF recipe, and basically tastes like a delicious gyro. I will have to try this recipe, too, and see if I like this one as much. Thanks for the idea!

Grace said...

the reason i don't eat lamb has nothing to do with its flavor--it has to do with the fact that the lamb is one of the cutest critters i've ever seen. i got to play with them all the time when i was growing up, and i can't imagine feasting on one. fortunately, cows, pigs, and chickens are ugly and therefore not a problem for me to eat. :)

Dhanggit said...

i adore lamb..although its kinda expensive out here in france..specially because they are grown and raised organically in the fields :-) ..i love this recipe cause i never tried combining it with white beans!!

bb said...

Ya know, in my experience, I think a lot of people who have that fear of lamb because of a "gamey" taste experience haven't had lamb in a long time. 5 or 10 years ago, I think most lamb did taste gamier, but now with more and more organic product around, it is SO much better. I personally LOVE lamb...mmmm...a nice grilled leg with olive oil, garlic, & rosemary...seared on the outside, pink in the middle. All those little three legged lambies running around so that I might eat better!

Sarah said...

Giff Constable--Good point. I think that the taste of lamb is changing, and hopefully Americans will give it another try!

StickyGooey--Thank you!

Dp--ground lamb is great, isn't it? I use it in bolognese sauces.

Foodycat--hogget is a term I've never heard before! I'll have to look for it.

Kelly--give it a try and see what you think!

Ali--Thanks for the link--I'll check it out!

Grace--your comment reminds me of a shirt I saw not too long ago: "Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder." Lambs are pretty cute, although perhaps it helps that I haven't really seen one up close. I might feel differently if I had!

Dhanggit--Thank you! The combination of lamb and white beans is quite tasty, but I could eat the white beans and tomato sauce by itself. It's delicious!

bb--You're making me hungry! Leg of lamb is perfect with the combo you suggest.