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Posts tagged ‘lamb’

Easter Favorites are 10% OFF!

Easter is April 20 and so it’s time to start planning your holiday meal. Enjoy 10% off our lamb, ham and other Easter selections at dartagnan.com.

For inspiration, check our blog post on Easter appetizers and main dishes (along with sides). Not sure about wine pairing for the feast? We’ve got you covered there as well.

Sale ends Thursday, April 17th at midnight EST.

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St. Patrick’s Day SALE

They say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day… even the French! We’re just happy to eat like the Irish (and maybe quaff a few beers) on this saint’s day.

We’d like you to do the same. This week, enjoy 10% off a selection of beefy, lamby and porky items that will help you to celebrate all things Irish this March 17. Erin go bragh!

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If you are looking for recipes, you can always check our site for inspiration. We like this Irish Stout Lamb Loin with Colcannon for a traditional meal. Of course, there’s always Corned Beef. And then, a meat pie is so satisfying  – this Wagyu Beef  Shepherd’s Pie is especially so.

If a hand pie is what you crave, try these Dingle Pies from The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews. They are a savory, rustic staple at Ireland’s oldest festival, Puck Fair.

Braising Essentials

Because we are offering 15% off our favorite cuts for braising this week, we thought it was the perfect time to share some tips for this technique.

Braising is comfort cooking at its finest, and it’s surprisingly easy. And while you may be inclined to keep the dishes all to yourself, braising is a great option for entertaining. With most of the hands-on work completed before the dish even goes into the oven there is ample time to spend with guests, and as the braise cooks it warms your home with an enticing, rich perfume. A larger batch is no more work, yet leaves enough for leftovers, no sharing required. Here are some of our braising basics.

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Equipment
There is really only one piece of special equipment needed for braising – the vessel. You should always use a high-quality, non-reactive, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Your pot should be deep enough to hold all of your ingredients while allowing about two inches of space at the top for evaporation and condensation, or self-basting, as we like to call it. If in doubt, always go up a size. Some specialty pots have features that enhance this moisture up/moisture down process, like a cocotte which has small spikes on the underside of the lid allowing for continuous self-basting, or a doufeu, a pot with a recessed lid to which you add ice to speed up condensation. These features are nice but often come with a hefty price tag. For basic braising, we recommend a simple Dutch oven made from enameled cast iron as it conducts and holds heat evenly and can be used to both brown the meat stovetop, then finish braising in the oven for true one-pot cooking.

The long & short of it
There are two basic types of braising: short and long. Short braising, or cuisson à l’étuvée in French, is great for vegetables, small birds and lean, tender poultry such as chicken or rabbit. It’s a fast process by which you quickly brown the ingredients in fat then add a flavorful liquid and barely simmer until just cooked through. The entire process is finished in less than an hour. Long braising or, braisage, uses similar techniques but achieves something different entirely. Tough cuts of meat such as short ribs, shoulders, shanks and briskets are browned in fat, then liquid and aromatics are added and the dish is cooked at very low temperature, staying below a simmer, for a long period of time. Cooking meat slow and low breaks down the sinewy connective tissue, first into collagen, then melting into gelatin. The cooking liquid reduces to become the accompanying rich and complex sauce.

Browning Basics
When browning meat for braising, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, never skip this step as browning the meat is an essential part of the braising process and your dish will lack flavor without it. Lean or tender cuts should be patted dry for a more intense browning effect. Fatty cuts should be dusted with flour pre-searing to develop a nice crust that will help to hold juices in. Heat your oil (duck fat works beautifully!) over high flame until quite hot then add your meat. Get the meat evenly brown and crusty on all sides. Be mindful not to crowd the pan, working in batches if necessary.

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Get Saucy!
The fork-tender meat may get top billing in braised dishes but the rich, luscious sauce is just as important. This long gentle method of cooking does most of the sauce work for you. There are some subtle tweaks you can make at the end of cooking to adjust the final product and really make your dish shine. If your sauce is thinner than you’d like, simply move some of the liquid to a small saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat. When thickened, add back into the pot. If your sauce is too thick, add some hot broth or wine and simmer. If you were over-generous with your seasoning, add a peeled potato or two during cooking. The starch will absorb a bit of the salt. Discard them before serving. Not enough flavor? Add freshly chopped herbs, citrus zest or spices at the very end of cooking and offer a bit at the table for garnish. Not enough body? At the end of cooking, shave in a small amount of bitter chocolate! It’s a professional kitchen secret that few chefs will reveal. A light hand will yield spectacular results. If your dish is too fatty, simply chill the whole pot in the refrigerator overnight. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to discard. The extra time allows the flavors to marry and concentrate too. If you’re short on time, you can also let it rest for a half hour then skim the top with a shallow spoon.

Quick Tips

When reheating, remove the meat from the thickened sauce and bring it to a low boil then toss the meat back in just to heat through.

Braised dishes freeze beautifully – make a big pot, freeze individual portions in airtight containers and enjoy on a cold, rainy day.

Braised meats also make fantastic leftovers. Try adding to tacos or burritos, shepherd’s pie, pasta, sandwiches or salads.

All About Lamb

Lamb is one of the most popular meats in England, Australia, Greece, the Middle East… pretty much everywhere but the United States, where our paltry annual average of one pound of meat per person pales in comparison to the almost 40 pounds consumed by each person in these countries. Our pals in New Zealand get special mention for eating an average of 57 pounds of lamb a year, thus ranking the nation as number one in the world for eating lamb meat!

D’Artagnan Domestic Lambs in Pasture

When Everyone Ate Lamb
Sheep were one of the earliest staple animals as humans made the transition from hunters to farmers. Meat, milk and wool all come from this useful, relatively small ruminant, making it most likely to succeed as one of the first domesticated animals. And sheep graze happily on meager pasture, so they can be reared in marginal, rocky areas. Also going for them (or their shepherds) is their flocking behavior. It does make it easy to keep track of them when they are out in pasture.

As testament to their success as a domesticated species, there are more than 200 breeds in existence today, each developed to a specific purpose. Some are bred for wool production, like the Merino, others for milk, like the East Fresian, which is responsible for much of the sheep milk in the world (which gets made into some of the best cheese!). In France, the Lacaune breed is the sheep of choice for producing the milk to make the legendary Roquefort cheese. And some breeds are best for succulent meat, like Cheviot, Dorset, Rambouillet or Suffolk sheep. And many breeds are good for all three.

Our Rocky Mountain Lambs Grazing

Lamb vs. Mutton

Lamb refers to meat from young sheep less than 12 months old, which is tender and mild in flavor. The meat from a sheep older than one year is called mutton, and it has a more intense flavor and somewhat less tender texture. Some cultures prefer to eat mutton (we’re looking at you, Great Britain!), and have developed recipes that require long slow cooking to break down the meat and tenderize it. There is another category called yearling mutton, which refers to meat from a sheep between 1 year and 2 years old. Yearling mutton will be darker, somewhat coarser and firmer with more fat and obviously larger overall than true lamb. Americans will be more likely to eat young lamb than mutton, when they do hunker down to their one pound of lamb a year.
Why We Should Eat More Lamb
The other red meat is good for you! Lamb meat has eight essential amino acids in the proper ratios, has high-quality protein, and is high in B vitamins, zinc and iron. And lamb is pretty lean compared to other red meats. Most of the fat is on the outside, not marbled throughout the meat, so it’s easily trimmed off. About 36 percent of the fat in lamb is saturated fat, and the rest is mono or polyunsaturated fat. And then there is the CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is a unique antioxidant that the human body cannot produce, but must get from eating herbivores like sheep, goats or cows. Lambs that get to eat clean pasture and range in the sunshine produce the most CLA.

Lobel Brothers’ Persian Lamb

D’Artagnan Lamb
D’Artagnan sources humanely-raised lamb from Australia, where there is a strong tradition of pasturing these wooly ruminants. A cross between the Dorset, White Suffolk and Border Leicester-Merino breeds, the sheep dine on clover and rye grasses, ensuring a sweet, mild flavor that is not gamey (a common complaint of uninitiated lamb eaters).

Domestic lamb is raised in the Rocky Mountain region by a small cooperative of family farms. They raise the heritage Rambouillet/Suffolk mixed breed on high altitude pasture, and finish them with a grain supplement. Like the farmers in our other cooperatives, they insist on following natural processes, never administering antibiotics or hormones.

Chef Jason Tillman’s Lamb Chops with Foie Gras and Prunes

The Rocky Mountains are an ideal place to raise lambs, with hundreds of thousands of acres of open pastures for grazing, comfortable temperatures and plenty of water and sunshine. This pristine and healthy environment minimizes stress on the animals and produces robust, well-fed lambs. Lambs grown in this environment are meatier than lambs grown in many other areas due to the optimal growth environment and unique genetics.

Lambs are raised to an average age of 6-9 months, which means their meat is quite tender with rich flavor. The grass and grain diet contributes to a mild, less gamey flavor than that which many associate with lamb.

Chek Kyle Ketchum’s Lamb Loin

Cooking
Racks, shanks, leg of lamb, lamb tenderloin, lamb shoulder—where to begin? Whatever the cut, the key to tasty lamb is not to overcook it! Nobody will be won over to the flavor of lamb if they are offered dry, grey, overcooked meat. Cook to medium rare, or 130 degrees F, which is the temperature that most chefs prefer for lamb, leaving all the juices, texture and flavor intact. In general, rack of lamb is a great roasted braised, or grilled. Leg of lamb can be marinated and roasted, and shanks respond well to braising and roasting. And if you are too timid to start with a lamb rack, try lamb merguez sausage – a favorite in North African and French cuisine!

RECIPE SUGGESTIONS:
Leg of Lamb Gascon Style
Grilled Rack of Lamb with Fresh Herbs
Braised Rack of Lamb with Carrots, Potatoes and Spinach
Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks with Mint Yogurt

Back of the House/Episode 9: Lamb with Ariane Duarte

Check out the latest episode of Back of the House with ArianeLamb, bam, thank you ma’am! In this quick video, Ariane is cooking our grass-fed lamb and lamb merguez sausage with Chef Ariane Duarte of CulinAriane in Montclair, NJ.

Rack of Lamb with Warm Green Bean Potato Salad

Duckfat Potato Cake with Merguez and Harissa Aioli

Merguez Canapes with Eggplant Caviar

Couscous with Merguez, Fennel and Raisins

A Day of Meat: Backstage at a Photo Shoot

What do you do when you’ve got a whole lot of meat to photograph? Well, here at D’Artagnan we turn to Ted Axelrod, a local photographer with an appreciation for good food and a meaty sense of humor.

Ted’s studio is in his home, which is crammed with all kinds of cool props, from cutting boards to glassware, vintage dishes to copper pots. He’s got perfect natural light in his sunroom and a spare refrigerator, which came in handy for us.

With piles of products ranging from raw Wagyu beef short ribs and rack of lamb to truffle butter and charcuterie, we set to work on the two-day shoot. Turns out it’s not so easy to make raw meat look appetizing! Our hats are off to all the food stylists and photographers out there whose work makes us drool.

Ted’s dogs, Gracie and Ella, were so well behaved; they didn’t snag a single duck breast off the table. And considering they had to endure the smell of raw meat all day, that’s a small miracle! We will admit to tossing them a few trimmings from the steaks and chops…and the innards from the chicken and pheasant.

On day two we set up a huge panoramic spread that represented nearly every type of product we sell. With a camera suspended on an arm directly overhead, we tweaked and previewed and reorganized until everything looked perfect. Then we unwrapped it all!  As soon as meat is exposed to the air, it begins to oxidize, which makes it dull in color. You’ve got to move fast.

Naturally, we left the fridge full of food!  Ted and his wife Susan, who is a food writer and editor, have been cooking up a storm with it all, and posting some of the results on their blog Spoon and Shutter.

We love their braised pheasant post, with step-by-step instructions, and the great photos (we’d expect nothing less!). Check out their progress as they try to eat their way through our catalog!

Look for Ted’s photos to be posted on our website soon.