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Health experts recommend eating several servings of fruits and vegetables each day; in addition, an appropriate amount of lean meats can also contribute to a nutritious regimen.
If you’re looking for the perfect combination of flavor and nutrients, lamb is an excellent choice. Fresh lamb is available year-round, as sheep are raised in almost every state including California (one of the top five sheep-producing states). Locally, Placer County is home to several sheep farms.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
When shopping for lamb, look for cuts that are soft pink or red with some white marbling, and without any dried edges. If you prefer lamb chops—the rib, loin or sirloin cuts are best. Lamb should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as it’s purchased. If you plan on freezing the meat, it’s best to consume it within three to four months. Always try to select lean cuts and use low-fat cooking methods, such as roasting, broiling, grilling, braising or stewing.
On average, a three-ounce serving of lamb has approximately 175 calories, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and is considered to be a lean meat by the Food and Drug Administration. The leanest cuts have 70-80 milligrams of cholesterol, comparable to a chicken breast, which contains about 70 milligrams.
One of the worst things you can do to a beautiful cut of lamb is overcook it, or—even worse—not cook it enough. Don’t guess when it’s ready to be removed from the oven or test out it’s doneness by cutting into it; instead, invest in a quality, reliable meat thermometer for an accurate assessment. Once the internal temperature reads 160 degrees, allow the meat to rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
HOW TO PAIR WITH WINE
PlacerGROWN Chef Courtney McDonald’s Rustic Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew with Citrus and Collard Greens (for the recipe, visit stylemg.com) pairs beautifully with a full-bodied foothill Merlot, which has nice acidity to hold up to the spice of the stew as well as wonderful fruit flavors of blackberry and black plum that complement the dish’s citrus and dates. The soft tannins and cocoa finish are perfect with the lamb’s sweetness. Mount Vernon Winery and Fawnridge Winery both create excellent Merlots. For more details on Placer County wineries, visit placerwine.com.
For details on where to buy Placer County farm-fresh produce, wine, meat and local products, visit placergrown.org.
Rustic Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew with Citrus and Collard Greens
Recipe by PlacerGROWN Chef Courtney McDonald
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 pounds lamb neck slices, lamb breast (cut into 2 pieces), cubed lamb shoulder, or combination
- 1 tbsp. whole coriander seed
- 2 tsp. whole cumin seed
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 ribs celery, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- Zest and juice of 3 mandarins, keep separate
- Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon, keep separate
- 1 ½ tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 3 dried chilies, snipped with scissors into ¼” pieces
- 3 whole bay leaves
- 4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable broth/stock
- 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed, washed and cut into ½” strips
- ½ cup medjool dates, pitted and diced
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
- Kosher salt, to taste
In a medium-sized Dutch oven or large saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until just below smoking point. Add the lamb in batches and sear until well caramelized. Remove lamb, set aside and reduce heat to low.
Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, mandarin and lemon zests, paprika, cinnamon stick, chilies, bay leaves and a generous pinch of salt to the hot olive oil and sweat until sweet and translucent, about 20 minutes.
While vegetables are sautéing: in a small dry sauté pan, toast the cumin and coriander seed over medium heat until oils have released and have an aromatic smell. Transfer to a mortar and pestal or spice grinder and coarsely grind. Add toasted and ground spices to the vegetable mixture.
Once vegetables are well cooked, add the lemon and mandarin juices and the broth or stock. Return the caramelized lamb pieces to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover the Dutch oven or pot with a lid and let simmer about 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Add the collard greens and simmer stew for another 45 minutes or so, until the lamb is starting to separate from the bones. Finish the stew with the dates, golden raisins, and cooked chickpeas, and return to a simmer. Remove from heat and season to taste with kosher salt. Serve over couscous or rice and garnish with harissa. Makes great leftovers! Serves 8.