Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lamb Shop Arrives at Reading Terminal Market

Breast of lamb, cut into riblets, a.k.a. Denver Ribs
Border Springs Lamb Farm opened its Reading Terminal Market retail outlet about a month later than planned, but the Virginia sheepery appears to be worth the wait, based on the fresh breast of lamb I purchased this morning.

For the moment they are only selling fresh lamb and sausages, but they hope to offer prepared foods sometime next week. And the prepared foods have me salivating -- see the menu synopsis at the end of this post.

I was taken aback when I asked the price of the lamb breast, a cut I adore. At Martin's and Giunta's the going price is less than $4/pound; Border Springs charged nearly $8. But before walking away I asked Aaron, one of the folks behind the counter, to open up a pack so I could examine it. Upon inspection I quickly agreed to purchase two breasts (four pounds) for my Fairmount block's Memorial Day party. These were the meatiest breasts of lamb I've ever encountered, but with still enough fat to endear them to me. Just look at the accompanying photo and see if you agree. On the package the whole breast is identified as "short ribs". When cut into riblets they're often called Denver Ribs, since much of the U.S. lamb industry is based in Colorado.

Since lamb ribs, even these relatively lean ones, tend to flare up on the grill, I'll be simmering these in water to pre-cook. Once the block party begins I'll finish on the grill with a sweet cumin-inflected sauce to give them the desired char.

Boneless, the breast of lamb (a.k.a. lamb belly) is an excellent meat to baconize, something I did a few years go with success. But since Border Springs will be selling lamb bacon, I may let them do the curing and smoking in the future.

Other than the breast, overall prices at Border Springs are close to what you'll pay for the commodity lamb found at supermarkets and most butchers. (And I'm not disparaging the "commodity" product; lamb from high volume producers is one of the best quality and least processed red meats you can find.) The rack of lamb and loin chops are $15/pound, about what you'd pay elsewhere. Bone-in leg is $9, also competitively priced. Shoulder chops are $7.50-$8, vs. $7 at most other establishments. So the premium, where it exists at all, is negligible if the quality is as good as it looks to be.

When they start cooking next week, Border Springs will even offer breakfast dishes:
lamb hash with potatoes, onions, peppers and friend egg or lamb sausage with gravy and biscuits, $6.50. Lunch sandwiches will include gyro or sausage at $7.25-$7.50, or meatloaf, pulled shoulder, or smoked leg at $9.50, lamb burger for $11. Eat-in or take-out items will include pot pie or lamb rice and chick pea bowl at $11, lamb stew at $10, and kebabs in Korean marinade at $5 apiece or two for $9.

I plan to work my way through the menu with gusto.

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