Luscious Lamb Recipes
Delicate and tender grass-fed lamb made five ways
While most lamb labeled as grass-fed are actually grain finished, the editorial team was lucky enough to cook (and eat) high-quality, truly grass-fed-and-finished lamb courtesy of DeBragga and Spitler, a meat distributing company based in New York City. What’s the difference between the two? Grain-finished lamb develops more intramuscular fat, whereas grass-fed lamb, like Lava Lake Lamb, is leaner and retains the quality and taste of the grass that it was raised on. To learn more about this type of lamb, we turned to the co-owners of DeBragga, Marc Sarrazin and George Faison, and then came up with some recipes of our own.
Raised in the high pastures of Idaho on a sustainable ranch (pictured left), these Lava Lake Lambs eat a concentrated diet of nutritious highland grass once they are weaned off of their mother's milk. This was one of the aspects that most attracted the duo to this small producer. Why is this so important? As George explained, “All grasses seem to have the same kind of growth cycle, but when they are high up in the mountains, that time frame and cycle is compressed so there are more nutrients and flavor in the grass in the high mountains then there are at a lower elevation. So the high pasture lamb has the most extraordinary flavor that you can get.”
Adding to this incredible flavor and tender meat is the fact that the lambs are very young when slaughtered, usually around four to six months at the most, making this one of the few programs that really raises and sells classic lamb according to the seasons. As they explained it, the lambs are born starting in March until June, with the first ones being slaughtered in July and continuing until October 1st so that the meat can shipped fresh during that time period. Delivering the meat fresh as opposed to frozen is one aspect that makes DeBragga a choice distributor of meat and which is also why this meat is a seasonal product.
How does it taste? Of course this is a personal experience as Mark made clear, but to him, the meat has an “almost mineral, grassy taste and is very delicate. It has a great lamb taste and a crispness and cleanness to it on the palate.” Others, like chefs Daniel Boulud and Morimoto must certainly agree with the quality of the meat because they serve Lava Lake Lamb at their restaurants. For home use, you can buy cuts of the meat online or, if you’re based in New York City, at Citarella.
While you can of course substitute conventional lamb for grass fed, just know that grass fed lamb will be leaner so you might want to cook it for a little less time than you would another piece of meat so that it can retain more of its natural juices. And likewise, if you choose to make the recipes below with conventional lamb, try using a meat thermometer to gage when the meat is done to your liking instead of relying solely on the timing (something that we usually recommend anyway). While both owners like and recommend Lava Lake Lamb on the rare side, as George wisely notes, “I always say you can cook it longer, but you can’t undo it.”
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— Maryse Chevriere
While I roasted this lovely piece of meat, you can also easily butterfly it and cook it on the grill during the summer...
— Yasmin Fahr
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— Allison Beck
When you have a quality cut, as I did this week with a beautiful DeBragga rack of lamb, you don't have to do much with the meat...
— Arthur Bovino
This hearty stew, with tender, succulent meat and chunks of sweet potato, is sure to stick to your ribs...
— Will Budiaman