So I bought a 2.5 pound breast of lamb in large part because I didn't know what to do with it, and I thought it would be fun to figure something out. Also, it was way cheap, which is always a matter of interest around here. It turns out you can make a generous main course for four from $5.00 worth of lamb breast.
Keep in mind, looking at the photo, that that is boneless meat there-not a couple of ribs on the bone hence, quite a lot of food. You start with it bone-in, and debone it after braising. Yes, I know, the photo is horrid. Now that I have learned to take somewhat better pictures of soup, I must move on to some kind of improved meat showcasing technique. Any clues, anyone? Truly, this is appetizing in person, and is neither black, nor shining with grease. It is crisp on the outside, succulent inside, and holds together well, much though it may appear to be flapping apart.
Making this is a somewhat fussy, time consuming business, but that is okay; in fact it is sometimes just the thing, when a person is in the mood for a bit of fuss. And if the end result is delicious and (still) cheap, it is all good. Certainly there have been times when, in an effort to turn some semi-throwaway item into dinner, I have wound up spending quite a bit on accessory ingredients. Not so here.
I thought I had remembered an interesting recipe for a stuffed lamb breast, and set out to dig it up. While googling and looking through my cookbooks, I found instead this appealing dish- in South Wind Through the Kitchen, a collection of various writers' favorite Elizabeth David articles. This one was a favorite of Simon Hopkinson, a British food writer I hadn't heard of. I adapted the Elizabeth David recipe just slightly, doing the first step in a slow cooker, so I wouldn't feel I had to stay home to mind the oven.
This is what I did:
I put the lamb breast in my slow cooker on the low setting, and added some vegetable broth, a little leftover red wine, a bay leaf, an onion, a carrot, two unpeeled garlic cloves, fennel stalks, salt and pepper, and some water. You wouldn't need much water really, I used a couple of cups, because I have some thoughts about a future Scotch Broth in the back of my mind, and intend to save the cooking liquid. Any aromatic mixture of vegetables and liquids would be fine. I kind of stuck with the canonical western bits and pieces, but I can imagine an Asian version would be nice, and work well with the rest of the recipe. I think I'd use Panko for that, rather than the fresh crumbs.
Once the meat was very, very tender, I drained and saved the broth, and slid the bones out. This should be easy-if it is difficult, you need to cook the meat some more. I then left the meat to cool in the fridge- weighted, as suggested, with a small cutting board, topped with the handy dandy ten ton base of my Thai mortar and pestle.
The next day, I sliced the meat into strips 2" wide, cut slightly on the bias. I spread each with a little dijon mustard and a beaten egg, coated them with freshly made breadcrumbs, and set them on a wire rack in a baking dish to dry a little, and set up, while preheating the oven to 350F.
They cook for 20 minutes, so they will be hot all through. A drizzle of butter or some olive oil spray on top, and then they go under thebroiler, close to the flame. They must be watched closely, and turned when they begin to sizzle and brown.
These went very well with a sharp coleslaw and some garlicky mashed potatoes. Belatedly, it occured to me that these would be great with tkemali, the sour plum sauce. They are rich, and something sharp sets them off well. Per S.H., "It is as sophisticated, if not much, much more so-than many little plates of neatly trimmed loins of lamb, cut into perfect pink slices and daubed with shiny brown reductions." It may also remind you of the deviled trotters I was on about. Very similar preparation, for another very gelatinously good bit of not-so- costly meat. Some who find pig's feet an off-putting idea, may take more kindly to this dish.
Scotch broth to follow- but definitely not right away. I love lamb, but there can be too much of a good thing. I'll give it a couple of days.