LOS ANGELES, April 16, 2014- Are you debating whether to cook ham or lamb for your Easter dinner? You’re not alone.
Those two main courses are usual suspects around the buffet table this time of year. The succulent, sweet and saltiness of ham or the decadent rich, tenderness of lamb. Both wonderful choices.
Here are a few helpful hints to help you decide what you should buy, how to buy and prepare, whichever you should choose.
Leg of lamb is exactly as it sounds, it is the leg of a lamb without the bone. It comes from a lamb that is less than a year old. The meat is very tender, slightly sweet and has a stronger flavor than beef.
History of lamb:
Eating lamb began before the birth of Christianity; the biblical exodus story stated the people of Egypt suffered from plagues, including the death of their first-born sons. Jews were instructed to paint the top of their doors with lamb’s blood and god would “pass over” and not conduct the punishment.
Lamb was then carried over from the Jews who became Christians.
Boneless leg of lamb can be bought at the grocery store in the meat department, or you can find lamb from your butcher. Leg of lamb typically comes with the bone in meaning you need to debone the meat yourself or ask the butcher to do it for you.
Lamb can be bought in Cryovac packaging to prolong the shelf life. If you buy the lamb in the packaging know that it will be slightly bluish in color and have a stronger smell when unwraped. Don’t worry the lamb will change back to the red color and the strong smell will dissipate the longer it’s out of the packaging.
Lamb will cost you around $5.00 a lb. and you will need around ½ to ¾ pound of lamb per person. Don’t forget there is a lot of fat removed, so the weight on the packaging isn’t the amount of edible meat.
Prepping and cleaning:
To clean a leg of lamb it’s best to cut the thick fat from the meat, pat it dry or rinse it under cold water and pat it dry. There are many articles advising home cooks not to rinse raw proteins in water.
In theory, this is a good practice to prevent the spread of bacteria but as long as you clean and disinfect your surface after washing the meat you can rinse it with out fear of cross contamination.
Boneless leg of lamb is best seared on the outside and finished in a 350-degree oven to a medium rare (130-140 degrees Fahrenheit).
Lamb should be served warm but can also be served at room temperature. It’s best sliced thin and served with a hearty grain like polenta or wild rice. Beware not everyone loves lamb so don’t be offended if someone’s plate comes back with lamb still on it.
Here is a video that shows you my preparation of Leg of Lamb.
What is Ham?
Ham is the delicious and fatty part of the butt and the shank of the pig. The ham is cured (a combination of salt, sugar and possibly nitrates rubbed into the meat over a 2-6 day period) to draw excess moisture out and to help preserve the meat.
History of ham:
Before there was refrigeration people use to cure meat. Curing meat was a long process that would take all winter and typically it would be ready around Easter.
Grocery stores do not sell raw hams, they only sell precooked hams and if you’re lucky you can find the spiral sliced which is perfect for parties. Despite the desire to cook a raw ham the ease of a precooked ham will quickly outweigh the cost and the effort needed to cook a raw ham.
Ham will cost you between two to three dollars a pound and it comes in many different weights but typically it weighs between 9 and 11 pounds. Assume 3 to 4 servings per pound.
Prepping and cleaning:
First remove the packaging but be sure to keep the directions on how to reheat the ham. The trick to prepping a delicious ham is to find a pan big enough with a tall side to cook the ham in. The tall side will keep the juices with the ham and prevent spillage when taking it out of the oven.
When buying an already cooked ham there is no need for cleaning the meat before cooking. Actually you do not want to as it would remove the flavorings and glaze.
Read the instructions on the ham but most heat in about 12-15 minutes covered on a 325-degree oven. Remember these hams are already cooked so you are just reheating them.
Ham can be bought in two ways whole and spiral cut. To make you life easier, purchase the spiral cut. Serve your ham with delicious butter rolls and asparagus. Don’t forget to provide a honey Dijon mustard to add to the flavor of the ham.
Honey glazed leg of lamb:
Serves: 3 to 4 Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
3 pounds of boneless leg of lamb
½ teaspoons paprika
½ cup of chopped parsley
2 tablespoons oil
2 shallots sliced
1 cup red wine
½ cup of water
¼ cup honey
Salt and pepper
Cut the fat off of the leg of lamb and open it up, fat side down.
In a bowl mix chopped parsley, oil, paprika, salt and pepper together. Smear the parsley mixture all over the inside of the lamb.
Roll the lamb back up and tie it with butchers twine or put the netting back on the meat.
Season the meat with salt and pepper and then dry it.
Heat a sauté pan with oil and sear all four sides of the lamb.
Then add a little more oil and the shallots to the pan, sauté them lightly.
Turn the fire off and add the wine.
Turn the heat to low and simmer the red wine until all the alcohol has evaporated.
Add the honey and the water to the pan.
Place the lamb in the oven and baste it every ten minutes.
Cook the lamb for 40 minutes for a medium rare.
Remove the netting and cut the lamb, keep the sauce and serve it with the lamb.
PRE COOKED SPIRAL HAM:
Follow directions on packaging; the ham is already ‘cooked’ and you are ‘warming’ not cooking. You do not want to over “warm” or dry out the ham, so follow temperature and directions carefully.
Honey Dijon for the Ham:
½ cup honey
¼ cup Dijon mustard
Whisk the two together until it is blended well. Serve with your ham.
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