Lamb has a rich tradition of being the focal point of spring meals. Signifying the passing of winter and the renewal of life, lamb was often the first fresh meat available each year, making it a logical springtime choice. Whole lambs were cooked on spits or in earth ovens, bringing together communities for religious and cultural ceremony in Mediterranean countries, Africa, Central and South America, and Polynesia. Lamb also holds symbolic meaning when served for Easter dinners and at the Passover seders of Sephardic Jews.
When we started discussing a lamb dish to celebrate the spring, we knew we wanted to honor the tradition of “neck-to-shank” cooking. As it turns out, however, it’s rather difficult to procure an entire lamb in the United States due to FDA regulations. We quickly realized that we would not be able to bury a lamb by The Cooking Lab, although it would have made for an interesting experiment—instead, we decided to give the tradition a Modernist twist. To butcher our whole lamb, the team first broke it down into primal cuts and then separated out the retail cuts. We used Modernist techniques to highlight the unique tastes and textures of each cut, resulting in thirteen different recipes.
Good lamb is moist and tasty, not tough and gamey. Many people associate lamb with the mouthfeel of chewy, overcooked chops, but done right, it can be extremely tender, nearly falling off the bone. Cooked sous vide for 18 hours, our recipe for Lamb Breast yields succulent results. Salt, olive oil, thyme, and garlic complement the natural flavors of the meat. Plated with a Slow-Baked Onion and Pistachio Puree, the finished dish is a humble Modernist homage to a timeless tradition.