If lamb is part of your Easter or Passover tradition, be prepared to pay more for it this year.
Prices for some lamb cuts are a few dollars higher now than last year. And they’re nearly double for fancier cuts such as the rack of lamb.
Meat packers, butchers and chefs say the increase is because of a shortage of imported lamb and the weak American dollar. And higher fuel costs affect nearly everything.
“Last year an imported rack of lamb was $8 a pound; this year it’s $16,” said Marty Wilk, director of sales at Fairway Packing in Detroit.
Wilk says there is more demand for domestic lamb this year.
Stan Ochab, 39, of the Market in Brownstown, Mich., says he has been carrying only domestic lamb.
“For Easter, I usually go through several hundred pounds of leg of lamb,” said Ochab.
At his family-owned store, Ochab is selling semi-boneless leg of lamb for $7.99 a pound and will prepare it any way the customers want. Typically, Ochab removes the bone and butterflies the lamb.
Demand for lamb more than doubles during the spring holidays. Nearly 20 percent of all lamb consumption occurs during spring, according to the American Lamb Board.
Allen Fisher, 37, executive sous chef at Opus One, where both imported and domestic lamb is available, said he believes the imported lamb shortage will “bode well for Michigan farmers.”
“In my personal opinion, the quality of the grass-fed lamb we get in Michigan is better,” he said.
If you spring for a rack of domestic lamb, expect to pay about $19.99 a pound. For a special treat, go for loin chops at about $13 a pound. And for value, go for the leg of lamb, which is about $8-$10 a pound.
Whatever cut you choose, just don’t overcook it.
“People shouldn’t be intimidated by cooking lamb,” says Yvonne Uhlianuk, 67, owner of Mt. Bruce Station, a sheep farm in Romeo, Mich., where there are 50 head of sheep.
Uhlianuk says you should cook lamb like any other red meat. She suggests buying boneless leg because it’s easier to handle, cook and carve.
“Use a combination of fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano mixed with a little olive oil and rub all over the leg,” she said.
ROASTED RACK OF LAMB WITH HERB CRUST
Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes/ Total time: 45 minutes
This recipe features a bread-crumb crust with fresh herbs. Serve with roasted new potatoes.
2 racks of lamb (about 2½ to 3 pounds), trimmed
1 cup coarse, fresh crumbs from French bread or panko crumbs
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chicken stock
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place the racks of lamb in a roasting pan, bone side down, and roast 20-25 minutes for medium-rare. (If desired, sear the racks of lamb in a large skillet before roasting to reduce the roasting time to about 15 minutes.) Test for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the lamb; it should read at least 125 degrees.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, shallots, mustard, basil, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, olive oil and chicken stock; mix well.
Remove the lamb from the oven, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Pat the crumb mixture onto the lamb and place it under the broiler 2-3 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned. Remove from the broiler and let sit 5 minutes. Slice into chops and serve.
Adapted from “American Bistro” by Diane Rossen Worthington (Chronicle Books, $29.95) and tested by Susan M. Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.
446 calories (42 percent from fat), 21 grams fat (6 grams sat. fat), 21 grams carbohydrates, 42 grams protein, 411 mg sodium, 125 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.
HERB CRUSTED BONELESS LEG OF LAMB
Serves: 10 / Preparation time: 25 minutes (plus marinating time) /Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Ask the butcher to de-bone and butterfly the leg of lamb for you, but keep the bone to use when roasting the lamb.
4 to 5 pounds boneless leg of lamb
½ cup olive oil
½ cup white wine
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Juice of 1 lemon
Reserved lamb bone
Chicken broth, wine or water
½ cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Place lamb in a plastic bag. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together all the marinade ingredients and pour over the lamb. Seal bag and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Remove lamb from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Have ready a roasting pan with a rack. Remove the lamb from the marinade and pour any remaining marinade in the bottom of the roasting pan. Place the lamb bone in the marinade and add about 1 cup broth or wine or water to the pan.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix all the herb crust ingredients and rub all over the lamb. Roll up the lamb and tie at intervals with kitchen twine or secure with butcher’s netting.
Place the lamb on the rack. Roast about 15 minutes or until nicely browned. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue roasting about 45 minutes more or until the internal temperature is 125 degrees.
Transfer the lamb to a carving board, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Place the roasting pan over two burners and cook over moderate heat while scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add more broth to the pan if needed and cook for about 1 minute. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Discard the string and carve the lamb into thick slices. Arrange on a platter and pour any carving juices into the sauce, spooning it over the lamb to serve.
From and tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Analysis based on 5 ounces cooked lamb. 403 calories (60 percent from fat), 26 grams fat (9 grams sat. fat), 2 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 568 mg sodium, 130 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.