There’s no need to feel sheepish about today’s food holiday. May 7 is National Roast Leg of Lamb Day!
A few weeks into the challenge, Tara said we should have been keeping track of how much this little project is costing us. A couple of bucks here, a few dollars there – it all adds up, you know? But it rarely adds up as much as today’s dinner did. For one thing, leg of lamb isn’t the easiest thing in the world to find. For another, it’s expensive. I stopped by my favorite local butcher shop a couple of weeks ago (shout out to Gartner’s!) and was relieved to learn they carried frozen leg of lamb. I was less relieved when the smallest portion they had – a 5 lb. boneless roast – set me back a whopping $44. Ouch. And to think I balked over the $9 Dungeness crab cocktails in Seattle. Even the Peking duck was considerably cheaper. This will probably end up being our most expensive food challenge of the year.
It had better be our most expensive food challenge of the year.
Lamb is to sheep what veal is to cow: a baby. To be classified as lamb, the meat must come from a sheep that is less than a year old, and weighing between 12 and 65 pounds. Too bah-d for the little guy, but it is a pretty tasty meat. I wasn’t even sure I liked lamb until we met up with friends for dinner out one night a couple of months back, and ordered a plate of lamb to share. We all thought it was delicious. Lamb has been considered a good source of both food and clothing for at least 10,000 years, and is particularly popular in Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Farmers in the Middle Ages prized sheep for their versatility: they used the meat for food, wool for clothing, skin for parchment, and milk for butter and cheese. Spanish soldiers brought sheep to North America in 1519, but when it was introduced to the western territories in the 1800s cattle ranchers were put out by the new competition. This may be the reason why lamb has never really caught on in the U.S. as it has in other countries; our average per capita consumption is only one pound per year. Which, incidentally, is about a pound more than I have consumed in my first 44 years combined. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to celebrating this holiday because it represents something new and unusual. I was prepared to be a “sacrificial lamb,” if you will.
Fortunately, I was able to enlist the aid of my mom. Since Tara and I both had to work all day, and we had a big 5-lb. lamb (imported from Australia, it turns out, where roast leg of lamb is the national dish), I asked if she would be interested in roasting the lamb for us, and she agreed. So, a big thanks to my mom for helping out! She also made the baked Alaska earlier this year. I’m happy to report, the lamb turned out delicious. We used this recipe, which included dijon mustard, honey, and fresh rosemary. Even the people at the table who didn’t think they liked lamb, liked this lamb. Well done, mom! Thanks again!