When Is the Last Time You Cooked Lamb for Dinner? Tips on how to cook and choose your lamb.

Lamb is not the kind of meat that everyone would like to cook at home. Its strong flavour and not quite knowing how to cook it makes many of us pass it up for more familiar and popular cuts. If you are a lamb lover, don’t let this unfamiliarity deter you from cooking a succulent piece of lamb. Because if you think about it, cooking lamb chops is no different from cooking pork chops and braising a lamb stew is pretty much the same as braising a beef stew.

150617 - Blog 2 - Lamb Ragu with Paparadelle

Slow-braised Lamb Ragu with Paparadelle

For all meats, whether they come from a cow, a pig or a lamb, the types of cuts are very similar because these animals all have 4 legs and move in the same way. Therefore the muscles and parts of their bodies that are used (or not used) are pretty much the same. The tenderest cuts will be the loin chops and tougher cuts will be their shoulders, legs or shank area. For example, lamb chops can be quickly pan fried just like pork chops or steaks. Tougher cuts such as leg of lamb or brisket area are best to braise slowly for 2-3 hours.

150617 - Blog 2 - Parts of Lamb

The strong flavour (gamey flavour) of lamb that some people don’t like mainly comes from the fat. You either love this taste or you hate it. There is really no in between. So if you want to try lamb but cannot stand the strong flavour, try trimming away as much of the fat as possible. The strong taste of lamb is also more subtle if you cook the lamb to about a medium to medium-well, with just a touch of pink in the middle. Another way to slowly incorporate lamb into a dish is to use mince lamb, where you can start with mixing minced lamb with minced beef, pork or chicken to make meatballs or burgers.

150617 - Blog 2 - Seared Lamb Chops with Cherry and Port Wine Sauce copy

Pan Seared Lamb Chops with Port and Cherry Sauce

 

Lamb is actually a very versatile meat when it comes to flavour combinations. With lamb having such a rich and meaty taste, it is best to season the meat with fresh herbs and spices that will bring some freshness and contrast. Rosemary, mint and lemon zest are classic combinations. Aromatic spices such as curry, cumin, cinnamon and black pepper are good choices for warm stewing dishes. Lamb also goes very well with fruits such as apricots, pomergrante and any sweet chutneys.

 

150617 - Blog 2 - Stuffed Leg of Lamb with black olives and apricots

Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Black Olives and Dried Apricots

If you are still not convinced, take a look at one of my July cooking videos here – “Summer Roast Rack of Lamb with Vegetables and Fresh Mint Sauce”.

Batch 5 - Roasted Lamb Rack with Tomatoes and Olives_2_V2

For more cooking tips, recipes and kitchen ideas, follow me on Facebook:
www.facebook.com/Charmainecooks

 

 

 

Tips for Cooking Juicy Pork Chops

I think there is a fear in many when it comes to cooking pork chops. The dilemma comes from wanting a juicy and tender piece of pork chop without over cooking it, yet we are always told to cook the crap out of pork chops because we need to make sure that the meat is fully cooked. It is not like a piece of steak where you can have it medium rare. So if you want to make sure that a piece of pork chop is fully cooked, of course you would cook it longer and that would give you a tough and dry piece of meat at the end.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are a few things that you could do to ensure you get a perfectly cooked, perfectly tender piece of pork chop every time.

  • Use the oven. I find the best way to give you juicy pork chops is to first sear the chop in a very hot pan on both sides, about 1 minute per side, and then finish the cooking in a hot oven, preheated to 200C. Pork chops are a tender and quick-cooking cut of meat. Therefore it is very easy to overcook it. By finishing the cooking in the oven, you are allowing even and gentle heat to cook the pork chops, which will be easier to control and also prevents the outside of the chops from getting burnt, tough and dry out before the middle has finished cooking. If you don’t have a frying pan that is oven proofed, you can transfer the pork chops, after searing on the stovetop, to a hot baking tray and roast in the oven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Buy thicker cuts of pork chops. Because pork chops can have little fat in them they tend to dry out very easily. Try to buy cuts that are at least 1 – 1.5 inches thick (2.5cm – 4cm).
  • Check the internal temperature. For the pork chops to be cooked through and safe to eat, the internal temperature should be between 62C – 72C (145F – 160F). Check the temperature with a meat thermometer if you have one. It is worth getting a meat thermometer if you like to experiment with roast meat or barbeque meats.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Let the meat rest. After cooking the pork chop, let it rest for at least 5 minutes, loosely covering it with tin foil, before cutting into the meat. This will allow the juices of the meat to settle down and not run out when you cut it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you don’t have an oven or even a small toaster oven at home that will fit your pork chops, the best thing to do is to start off with a very hot frying pan to get that nice sear on both sides. Then lower the heat to medium low to slowly cook the chop for 6 – 8 minutes. At the end, you can splash a bit of water or broth in and cover the pan to steam the pork chop for an extra minute.

Click here to see my video on Pork Chops with Rosemary and Seedless Red Grapes.

Follow me on Facebook for more recipes and cooking tips: www.facebook.com/Charmainecooks

Chinese version of the blog post, translated by DayDayCook, click here.

 

Know Your Cuts

For many, having a good steak dinner is usually reserved for special occasions. A good piece of steak is tender, juicy, meaty and packed full of flavour. Paired with the right side dishes, a piece of good quality steak is elegant, comforting and satisfying.

I am sure we are all quite familiar with the top cuts, also known as, the primal cuts of beef. These cuts, including, rib eye, sirloin, tenderloin, and T-bone are all extremely good cuts of meat. However, they can also be quite expensive. And with a price tag that is so high, many home cooks are afraid to cook them. I used to only eat steak in fancy restaurants and I enjoyed every minute of those meals.

With all these various cuts and with beef always being quite expensive, it is worth knowing the different cuts of beef.

Primal cuts are usually from areas of the cow that don’t need to do much work. These muscles are not exercised very much or they don’t contain a lot of connective tissues that would need hours of cooking time to break them down. As a result, these steaks are extremely tender and cooking them over intense high heat, sealing in the juices, is usually all that needs to be done to them.

blog-posts-know-your-cuts-3

However, to create a special steak dinner at home without breaking the bank is also very doable. To use a more affordable cut of meat, all we have to do is spend a little more time to prepare the meat in advance, marinating them to break down the tough tissues, and you’ll be able to enjoy a good beefy piece of meat just the same.

One of my favourite subprimal cuts (less pricy cut) is the flank steak. This cut definitely not as fancy but it cooks just as quickly and gives you the same big flavor as any of the primal cuts. Flank steaks are great for causal weeknight dinners alongside with a simple salad or roasted vegetables. If you have any leftovers, they are awesome for steak sandwiches the next day!

So where is this flank steak from? The flank is located at the bottom side of the cow, below the ribs. It is quite wide but thin, which makes it great for dinner parties as well as they cook quickly and you can slice them up thinly to serve a crowd.

The best way to cook flank steak is to grill them over high heat in a skillet or even stir-fry. But since it is a fairly tough and chewy cut, marinating it is essential. My go-to way with this is to soak the flank steak in a bath of red wine with some fresh herbs, garlic and salt and pepper. I like to marinate the flank steak for at least an hour, but it will hold up to even 24 hours. Get the steak marinating in the fridge before you go to bed or work and all you have to do when you get home is cook it over high heat in a skillet!

blog-post-know-your-cuts-1

Another trick to make sure your flank steak is not chewy is to slice it against the grain. All cuts of steak will have muscle fibres running throughout, it just depends on the density of those fibres. By cutting across the grain, you are further breaking down these fibres to ensure a less chewy texture.

blog-post-know-your-cuts-2

Want to know how this is done? Click here to see my latest video on How to Cook Flank Steak.

Here is a link to the Chinese version of this article, courtesy of DayDayCook:
https://goo.gl/kaxbiF