For the Love of Lamb

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Stephanie Michalak

Chef, Culinary Manager

 

One of the core reasons why I chose to cook professionally was to make foods that nourish others, both physically and spiritually. However, very few people will happily consume anything and everything. Almost everyone has at least one food item that they can’t seem to get into and enjoy, no matter what. Food preferences are not simple to rationalize between cultural norms, upbringings, memories, inherent preferences, and aversions.

It is hard to always articulate why we like what we like and what we don’t like, but when it comes to a dish or food item that one person does not enjoy or will not eat, we generally have a more compulsory reaction. Anyone who has ever interacted with a toddler who was obstinate about eating something – for example broccoli –can probably vividly remember the intense facial expressions and physical pushback. Luckily, most adults don’t outwardly act the same way as a toddler with food, but we tend to not buy or choose dishes when we know there is an ingredient or flavor that we do not like eating.

Getting others excited about foods they normally would avoid is a gratifying experience and why I have always enjoyed when someone tells me, “normally I don’t like (insert food/dish here), but I loved that!” Even if a person does not change their eating habits drastically or ends up becoming infatuated with their previously avoided foods, having someone rethink their preferences and realize that there are just so many ways to try an item before casting it aside for the rest of their lives is like getting to bite into your first über-ripe South Carolinian peach during the dog days of summer… It’s just satisfying.

One food item that I have heard a lot of people on the fence about, or just blankly state they avoid it at all costs is lamb. Many people that I have spoken to either do not like its “grassy” flavor or do not feel comfortable cooking lamb; especially larger cuts. However, most do not realize that not all lamb tastes the same –ours at Turner Farm is pleasantly mild in flavor and very approachable for those who are just attempting to get into lamb.

Plus, lamb sings when it is prepared with a lot of herbs and spices and is extremely versatile. Whether you braise, grill, or roast, there is a cut of lamb that works well for the cooking style. Sometimes it just helps to know what goes well with what, especially if you are attempting to cook lamb for the first time and are not going out and attempting to eat it at a restaurant.

As far as cooking larger pieces like leg of lamb or rack of lamb: trust me, the pressure of cooking it perfectly and it being a sizable amount of protein in general is daunting and very nerve wracking experience initially (yes, even for professional cooks at first). This is honestly why we are hosting Lamb: The Forgotten Flavor as the first section of a larger lamb series because I want others to feel more comfortable cooking lamb. I want others to feel confident that if they purchase lamb in the future that yes, they can make something delicious and have others saying “Wow. I never thought I would like this, but I actually love it!”

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