Lamb Breast (Recipe)

In an effort to use up the lamb in our freezer, I decided at random to defrost the packages of "lamb breast". The packs were about 5" x 14" x 1/2". I tried to imagine the physique of a lamb and figured the breast meat would be a thin fillet, like chicken breast. I figured I would slice the breast meat thinly on the bias and pan fry it with onions and serve it over noodles.

But when the meat was defrosted and I opened the package, it was not as I had imagined. What was labeled lamb breast looked to me like spareribs. I decided to go online to figure out what to do with it. I reviewed four or five recipes, and decided to go with a variation of this one.

There was another reference site that very helpfully had photographs of the three different cuts that are all commonly labeled lamb breast. They do indeed include rib bones, but it's just not always called ribs when it is sourced from lamb (although "Denver ribs" was a term that could be used. . .). The two basic options are to braise the ribs or marinate and grill them. I've been braising a lot of meat lately, so I was ready for a change. Plus I happened to have 1.5 fresh lemons on hand, so it was a sign that I should use the opportunity to marinade.

The marinade I created was 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 tsp dried oregano. That was enough for two racks (breasts?) of the size I mentioned above. I got them to fit in a gallon ziplock bag and marinated them overnight in the fridge.

Today I fired up my stovetop grill, which basically involved preheating it (it's a cast-iron grill on one side, griddle on the other) over two burners for about 5-10 minutes. I sprayed some oil on it (after burning the fibers in my pastry brush trying to brush oil onto it-- doh!), and put the meat flesh-side down on the grill to char. The meat had been warming to room temperature the same time the grill was being preheated.

While the meat was cooking, I rinsed and drained two cans of chickpeas and put them in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan (along with a handful of leftover kidney beans). I added about 1/2 of a chopped white onion, then salted and peppered the beans & onions. Once the meat had suitably attractive grill marks and the outside was seared nicely, I put the racks atop the beans in the pan, and baked it at 350F for 1.5 hours.

The chickpeas wound up getting a bit crunchy during that time, but had nice flavor (the kidney beans remained tender). The meat came off the bone relatively easily (much like pork ribs), but did not taste at all like either beef or pork ribs. I think this is the first time I've had this cut of lamb, so it's a bit exciting for me to try something new. Nor did it taste quite like the braised lamb dishes I've been making lately, so it was a nice change of pace.

It was not a difficult technique, but the marinade does require advance preparation, one of the reasons I rarely use marinades. Advance preparation is not the strong suit for people with ADD. But the success of this dish will inspire me to perhaps try the marinade & grill technique for some pork ribs I've got in the freezer. I'd prefer to grill outdoors on a grill instead of over the stovetop indoors due to the smoke involved, but with the kitchen window open and fan on it wasn't too bad, and will have to do until T builds a deck where we can put the grill.