Lamb Is A Four-Letter Word

I had my first taste of lamb the summer after my senior year in high school, at someone else's family backyard cookout. They called them spiedies, these lamb-chunk and vegetable laden skewers, after the particular marinade/sauce that went with them. While I’ve never been particularly neophobic, novel animal meats more so than novel vegetables and fruits cause the most reluctance in people asked to try new foods. I nibbled, cautiously, but there was no hesitation soon after: the meat was tender, gently seasoned and roasted, and eaten fresh from the grill in the summer sunshine of New York, lamb opened me to a whole new player in the butcher case.
My parents have never understood my liking for lamb, teasingly treating it much the same way as they have my recent enjoyment of football (“who are you? What have you done with Emily? Where, oh where, did we go wrong?” It was my father who told me it’s a four-letter word – that’s probably my favorite of the bunch). They said they could never stand the smell of cooking lamb, memories of their childhood of mutton. Back in the day, they let me indulge if they would be out of town for several days, and if I promised to keep the windows wide open. They are not keen on trying it again, despite their well-developed palates and the availability of better-quality younger lambs, and no amount of coaxing or cajoling on my part has convinced them. This is a very good example of how pervasive and persistent both odor memory and taste aversions can be. From a psychological standpoint, it’s both sensible and fascinating; from a culinary perspective, I keep thinking, come on – just once.
I don’t understand it. Lamb, to me, has a mild but rich-promising aroma and the meat seems to be less brash, smoother than beef, and with a hint of gaminess perhaps in its flavor that makes it more interesting to cook with. If lamb isn’t your cut of meat, however, this can be made with another lean ground meat instead.

adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine, August 2004

3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large Vidalia onion, diced small
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground lamb
1 red bell pepper, diced small
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 c scallions, chopped
4 oz lemon and herb feta cheese, crumbled
1 c large (Israeli) couscous
1 1/4 c chicken broth
6 oz plain non-fat yogurt
8 oz light sour cream
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 1/2 tsp dill
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp salt
ground black pepper

In a saucepan, start the chicken broth boiling for the couscous. When the broth boils, add the couscous. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cover. Cook for ten minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and saute onion 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute an additional minute. Stir in the ground lamb, breaking up the pieces, and cook 5 minutes or until browned. Add the bell pepper, lemon juice, and seasonings; cook 1 minute.
Remove the lamb mixture from heat and spoon off any excess fat. Stir in the couscous and cool 5 minutes. Stir in the scallions and feta.
To make the tzatziki: let the cucumber drain in a colander to remove any excess water. Open the yogurt and sour cream containers and skim off any liquid at the top. In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, sour cream, cucumber and seasonings.
Serve the lamb and couscous with tzatziki on top or alongside.


Blogger x said...

I love lamb, I never had it growing up. Eating lamb makes you realize how tassteless most beef is these days. This looks like a killer recipe - I can taste it now. Thanks much!


8:49 AM  
Blogger emily said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kevin!

This is (in my humble opinion) quite a good recipe - though I did notice recently I'd left out the oregano, which would also go in wonderfully with the other flavors. In addition, I've discovered recently that to prevent wateriness in the tzatziki, you can drain the yogurt through a coffee filter set in a sieve for 30 minutes - I'd particularly recommend this as mine was great the first day, but went watery after that.
Happy cooking!

5:52 PM  
Blogger melinda said...

Ok - I tried it :)

I had never cooked lamb before and I guess it's not the hottest item out here in Aberdeen - I could not find lamb (let alone ground lamb) until the third grocery store. They had a pound of lamb, unground, which I asked to be ground, but apparently you can't just grind one pound, you need six. But what was I going to do with 6 pounds of ground lamb at $7 bucks a lb.? So he cut into 1/2 cubes for me.

The second ingredient hard to come by was Isreali couscous - so I settled for a box of Pine Nut couscous.

My roommate and her bf loved it! particularly the yogurt. The only complaint is that there's a ton of the yogurt . . . too much for the remaining leftovers. What should I do with the remaining?

10:38 AM  

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