Monica King here to share a new way of cooking an old family staple. Indeed, lamb has been a staple in my family for ages, it replaced many turkeys on the holiday tables. Although I do not raise any on my farm (yet) I always look for US grown cuts at my local grocery store and farmer’s markets.
Note – If you are new to lamb I do not recommend trying any raised in New Zealand because it has a stronger mutton flavor.
Sheep in the New World
The Southwest is no stranger to domesticated sheep as sources of both wool and meat. America’s first sheep, the Churra, is an ancient Iberian breed. Originally from the Iberian Peninsula (namely from Spain, Portugal and Andorra), this breed of sheep was brought to the New World in the 16th century to feed and clothe the Conquistadors and Spanish settlers.
Sheep and the Dine (Navajo)
Over three centuries ago, the Dine (Navajo) started herding these Spanish Churra sheep on their land, and over time developed the Navajo-Churro breed. The Dine herders selected for the sheep that would survive well in their rugged land, put on weight on minimal forage, and grow dense wool coats. The Navajo-Churro sheep is now a breed recognized by the American Sheep Industry. The Dine are famous for their wool weavings of beautiful naturally dyed rugs and blankets. Navajo Lamb Stew is a staple among the Dinetah.
On a trip to the reservation some years ago, I saw a sign for sheep meat prices. Interestingly, the most expensive was lamb, then there were two prices for different ages of sheep, with an old sheep or mutton being only 50 cents a pound. Probably not the price anymore but it sure made me chuckle as I totally understood age dictates quality.
Today, a cut that can be found at a reasonable price and full of wonderful flavor is lamb breast. I was recently introduced to this recipe by my mom. It is well worth the prep time and while roasting I guarantee the aromas will make your mouth water.
Honey Roasted Lamb Breast
4 pounds lamb breast
roasting pan with lid or aluminum foil on hand
flat baking sheet or broiler pan
Honey Parsley Vinegar Sauce:
Make this Honey Parsley Vinegar Sauce, mix well and set aside. The flavors develop best when made up to 24 hours ahead of time (store in the refrigerator).
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/3 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves fresh crushed garlic
1 teaspoon local raw mesquite/wildflower honey * (see honey tip below)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pinch salt
olive oil – 2 tablespoons
salt – 2 teaspoons
ground cumin – 2 teaspoons
freshly ground black pepper – 1 teaspoon
dried Italian herb seasoning – 1 teaspoon
ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
paprika – 1 teaspoon (not smoked paprika – it overwhelms the subtle flavor)
1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2) Make the vinegar sauce if you haven’t yet.
3) Whisk the rub ingredients together in a bowl.
4) Cut the lamb breast in half then rub in the rub mixture.
5) Transfer to a roasting pan with the fat side up.
6) Tightly cover with lid or aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 2 hours.
7) Meat is done when tender when pierced with a fork. But you are not done cooking yet!
Stage Two of Cooking
8) Remove lamb from oven and cut into 4 pieces.
9) Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
10) Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and place lamb on top of it, non-fat side up.
11) Brush with fat drippings and pour Honey Parsley Vinegar Sauce over the top, coating each piece.
12) Bake lamb another 20 minutes until meat is browned and edges are crispy.
13) Remove from oven and serve with additional Honey Parsley Vinegar Sauce.
* Honey Tip: When measuring honey, first lightly coat your measuring cup or spoon with vegetable oil. The sticky honey will slip right off!
Monica King is a third generation bee-keeper living off-grid in Southern AZ. Since she keeps bees, and has ample honey on hand, many of her meals feature or use honey.
She can be found at the Patagonia Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings – but only in the cooler months when it is active.
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