Beef. Chicken. Pork. The Holy Trinity of meat products, forever basking in the glory of their versatile and adaptable flavors. It’s easy to forget that the meat we consume is muscle – once exercised and stressed through a lifetime of grazing, meandering, and feeding. So why doesn’t all meat taste the same? Why does a chicken taste different from a cow? Why does lamb, which looks identical to steak, taste so different from beef?
If we step back for a moment, let us consider the variable diets of different animals. Grass. Grains. Seeds. Corn. Slop. The foods that we eat each offer our bodies different nutrients and proteins.
Food for thought: Is it not true that beer made from wheat tastes different from beer made with barley? The same sort of thing happens with meat. Lifestyle and diet are the ingredients to make meat taste a certain way.
So naturally, an animal’s diet plays a large role in the way it will [eventually] taste. Second, let us consider the sizes and shapes of different animals. Muscle is distributed very differently on a cow than it is a sheep because of a difference in size and lifestyle (and somewhere along the way, evolution said that man deserved both lamb chops and hamburgers – #idonthateit). Furthermore, these muscles are exercised in very different ways due to the weight of the animal. This is why veal (beef from a calf) is far more tender than a steak from a full-grown cow – the muscles haven’t been stressed nearly as much, and the calf’s diet up to the point of slaughter consisted largely of milk and milk-replacers.
Kinda makes you wonder what humans taste like, huh? The thing about cannibalism is it’s not actually illegal – infamous killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish were convicted of murder, homicide, and manslaughter…but not cannibalism. Cannibalism is only seen as taboo in modern society, and since we can’t go around slaughtering people for the sake of a “#4 with a side of fries and a Diet Coke”, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know what it truly tastes like. For a brief period, a scientist and anthropologist advertised a fictional product called Hufu, a synthetically created meat product that was supposed to mimic the taste of human flesh and muscle. No worries though, it was a fake product.
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy.
So why the aside about cannibalism? Because we, like animals, have very distinct diets, exercise habits, and lifestyles. Come to think of it, a vegetarian would taste quite different from a carnivore. A theory: Human meat would probably be pretty tough since we are very active and mobile beings. Rump roast from a cow is best for stewing because it’s a very tough cut of meat. Why is it tough? Because cows walk around all day exercising, you guessed it, their rump. So all the bodybuilders out there would probably be best in a stew. Just sayin’.
Now that we’re thoroughly informed about meat and cannibalism, let’s eat!
This evening I decided to try and make lamb. In college I made Guinness Lamb Stew with my roommates using freshly butchered lamb from our university’s agricultural center, but I’ve never made lamb chops.
Lamb, like beef, is a red meat, and is to be cooked in a similar manner to steak…rare, medium rare, medium, medium-well, or well-done. Chops are butchered with the bone kept in, and depending on the butcher and the size of the lamb when it came in, you may or may not get the long ‘bone handles’ that you see on some lamb chops.
Now before we start, set your oven to 500°F. We’ll get to this later.
Lamb does not require much seasoning, as it offers it’s own unique flavor by itself. I seasoned mine with some salt, pepper, and onion powder. Don’t trim off the fat ring you see on the outer edge. This will give a LOT of flavor to the meat, and some of it will render down in the pan, which we’ll use to make our red wine reduction sauce.
A neat trick for cooking any kind of meat is to first heat up some olive oil in a pan, then add garlic. Cook this for a minute or two, then get rid of the garlic. The leftover oil will be infused with the flavor of the garlic, but you won’t end up with burnt pieces on the outside of your meat. You can buy flavor-infused oils from certain specialty shops, but it’s just as easy to make your own. Don’t waste the money.
Heat your infused oil until it’s smoking lightly, then add your lightly-seasoned lamb chops. We’re only searing these for about 60 seconds on each side (edges included) to create some nice color and texture on the outside. Once you’ve seared all of the sides and gotten a nice, dark, golden brown color, put the entire pan into your hot oven. This will cook the inside of the meat to the perfect temperature (5 minutes or so for medium-rare like mine).
While your meat is in the oven, prepare your sides. I decided for a creamy ricotta potato mash and some fresh broccolini. Broccolini is the limp and floppy cousin of broccoli, but tastes largely the same. The biggest difference is a difference in texture, as the florets are not nearly as large. They’re easy to make, too. Just add a half-an-inch of water to a pot and drop in your broccolini. Cover with a lid and steam for about 6 minutes. They’ll be bright green when they’re ready. Pitch the water and add a tiny bit of butter, some crushed garlic, and some salt/pepper. I like my broccoli slightly al dente, so if you want yours more done, just steam it for a minute or two longer.
A single “tree” in a broccoli crown.
A bunch of broccoli florets. Usually costs $2.99 at your local grocery store.
Still kinda crunchy. Not mush.
The creamy potato mash is made like any other mashed potatoes – boil some potatoes…then mash them – with the exception that instead of adding just milk and butter, add sour cream, butter, garlic, and some ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese is a very very mild cheese that comes in a carton like sour cream (you’ll find them next to each other in the store), but has a texture that makes The Rock and Shaquille O’Neal weep manly tears of joy. I like mine very creamy, so I added a little milk to thin them out a bit. Beat the sin out of your potatoes so that they’re not lumpy. I discovered halfway through cooking the potatoes that I didn’t have a potato masher, so I had to settle with the “fork-on-the-side-of-the-pot” method. No bueno.
By now your lamb chops are at the climax of their Hallelujah chorus, so take those suckers out and put them onto a cutting board to rest a while. Into the same pan from which you retrieved your chops, add a generous amount of red wine, some rosemary, garlic, and salt/pepper. Allow to reduce for a couple minutes, then add a splash or two of heavy cream. This magical sauce will thicken into a sweet, succulent, and savory sidekick for any red meat dish.
Time to assemble! Prepare a potato mash foundation for your lamb chop house, give it a moat of red wine sauce, and add some broccolini landscaping. Now go take a photograph of it and start a food blog…