Lamb is a delicately flavored meat when handled correctly and rewards the skillful cook by complementing a wide range of sauces. The most common accompaniment to lamb traditionally has been mint sauce or mint jelly, which are devised to mask the gamy taste of mature mutton. When used with young and tender lamb, it has the unfortunate effect of overwhelming the subtle flavor of the meat. Fortunately, there are many traditional and nontraditional sauces that are better complements.
Pan sauces are made directly in the pan in which a chop has been sauteed. While the pan is still hot, a small quantity of wine, water or some other liquid is poured into the pan, and the cook dissolves the flavorful, cooked-on juices by stirring vigorously. This process, called deglazing, produces a concentrated lamb flavor. The liquid is then cooked down until slightly thickened and usually finished by swirling in a piece of cold butter to give the sauce more thickness and sheen.
Demi-glace is made by taking a rich, well-flavored stock and boiling it down until it is very concentrated. Traditionally, it was mixed in equal parts with a brown sauce but that made a heavier sauce and is seldom done in modern kitchens. When time permits, demi-glace can be made with lamb stock, but usually veal stock is used because of its chameleonic ability to enhance the flavors of other meats. Demi-glace is combined with reduced red wine, port, dry sherry or Madeira to produce sauces for lamb and also can be used to enrich pan sauces.
Americans traditionally have been reluctant to incorporate fruit into savory dishes, despite the longstanding popularity of applesauce with pork or cranberry sauce with turkey. In the Middle East, lamb and apricots are considered to be exactly that type of natural, classic combination. Sauces made with pomegranate, red currants, dried cherries and many other berries or fruit are excellent with lamb. A balance of sweetness and acidity is best, so match tart fruits to sweet wine and vice versa.
Many cultures around the world place a greater premium on lamb than Americans do. Pull out your favorite ethnic cookbooks whenever you want to give your favorite lamb dishes a makeover. Simmer your lamb in a tomato-based sauce with Greek or Provencal seasonings, for example, or prepare a curry sauce or chutney from an Indian cookbook. Grilled, broiled or roasted lamb goes very well with a yogurt-based sauce like tzatziki or its many counterparts throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.
- Fine Cooking; Seared Lamb Shoulder Chops with Mustard-Dill Pan Sauce; Liz Pearson; September 2010
- Fine Cooking; Grilled Lamb Chops with Charred Red Onion Chutney; Liz Pearson; May 2010
- Fine Cooking; Roast Rack of Lamb with Lemon-Mint Salsa Verde; Jessica Bard; March 2009
- Fine Cooking; Lamb Chops with Pomegranate Red-Wine Sauce; Kate Hays; December 2005
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