Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lamb Bacon

Last Saturday I picked up two breasts of lamb at Giunta’s Prime Shop in the Reading Terminal Market, a cut I’ve used many times before in various cooking methods (braise, braise-and-broil, indirect grilling, broiling, etc.). If you don’t like strongly-flavorecd lamb, the dish is definitely one you should avoid. But if, like me, you crave fatty flavor it’s ideal. It’s priced right at about $3.89 or less a pound on the bone at Giunta’s and Martin’s.

I’ve been hankering to try lamb bacon for a while, so I asked Charles to take the two breasts and bone them out. When boned, many restaurants serve this as lamb belly, usually slow-roasted. The two pieces cost me $15, and I kept the bones, which can be used to make Scotch broth or lightly broiled/indirectly grilled for nibbling, since a little meat clings to them.

I turned my two pieces into lamb bacon using a recipe from Bryan Mayer, butcher at Greene Grape Provisions in Brooklyn, as reported by his colleague, Danny Meyer of restaurant fame. It’s a simple recipe: coat the boned breasts with a mix of two cups kosher salt to one cup sugar, wrap it in plastic and let it sit in the fridge until the meat firms up, anywhere from two to four days. (Mine took four). Then slow roast them in the oven at 250F to an internal temp of 140, though you could also smoke them to that temperature for even more flavor. It should take about two and a half hours.

My oven temp was bit off, so after a little more than two hours the internal temp and gone to 180F. But with all the fat, lamb breast is a rather forgiving cut so long as you don’t carbonize it on the grill. I took one of the pieces and sliced off five rashers, no more than a quarter-inch thick (if you can do it thinner, that’s better), then fried them like bacon in a big pan over medium-high heat. Lots of fat sizzles around in the pan so use a splatter screen if you have it, otherwise you face a big counter cleanup. I cooked it for a few minutes on each side to get it good and crispy. It was delish, even with the over-cooking in the oven. The other slab is in the freezer, where it should keep for at least a couple of months.

The recipe was published in Mark Bittman’s Bitten blog on the New York Times website.

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