A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bargain hunters beware

If you try to watch your grocery bill, you are undoubtedly familiar with the process of scanning the meat aisle for cuts of meat which are on sale. Often, these items are marked down because they are getting old (though not so old so as to be dangerous). All you have to do is pop 'em in your freezer to keep until ready to cook.

It's the cooking part that may be the problem. Perhaps this doesn't happen to older, wiser, better cooks, but I find that when I bring home "bargain cuts," whether they are beef, lamb, pork, or veal, they tend to be cuts of meat that aren't in the cookbook. Veal shoulder chop? What's that? Why isn't it in my Betty Crocker? Country style boneless pork ribs? What the heck? How long do I cook that?

Today's "mystery meat" is a breast of lamb in two pieces. I bought it because it was very cheap indeed. I, a fan of any meat that isn't beef or seafood, was delighted to find a cut of lamb that was really in my price range. Alas, it was my husband who discovered the reason it was so inexpensive: breast of lamb is fatty. Really fatty. One serving has 460 calories or so, and about 430 come from fat. One serving of lamb breast constitutes 73% of your daily fat allowance. Ouch!

Not only was this cut fatty, it had bones in it. Breastbones, to be precise. This was a problem because, as I discovered, most recipes for breast of lamb involve a boned piece of meat. Apparently, when you remove the breastbone, you create a pocket perfect for stuffing. Since the meat is already moist and tender you can add a dry stuffing, which will become enriched by all the fat from the lamb. Then you roll the whole thing up, tie it with twine, and roast it. Yum yum.

Yeah, right! I dislike most kinds of stuffing. More importantly, I don't know how to bone a piece of meat. If I knew that sort of thing, I'd be a butcher, not a graduate student. Some of the recipes helpfully suggest that you can ask the butcher to bone the meat for you. That may work well if you are ordering a specific piece of meat over the meat counter, but not if you are grabbing an already-packaged lamb breast from the bargain meat area at Walmart. And in any event, I didn't realize that the meat needed to be boned until last night, when I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner the next day.

What I really wanted was a slow cooker recipe. You see, this piece of meat did come with instructions for braising it until tender. When I read that, my immeddiate thought was "Aha! It needs to be cooked in liquid. Therefore, I can crockroast it in red wine! But how long should it be cooked? And how shall I season it?" Alas, these answers were not to be found. Apparently no one else tries to crockroast their lamb breast. For that matter, none of the directions looked remotely like the cooking directions that came with the meat.

Finally, I found this recipe for braised breast of mutton. It calls for cooking the meat at low heat for a long period of time, which suggested to me that it was a recipe destined to be adapted for the slow cooker. Mutton and lamb are not identical in flavor or texture, but my hope was that they'd be close enough that I could adapt this direction, skipping the step of boiling the meat ahead of time. But will it work in the crockpot? And what is the result like? Will it be more like a very chunky (not to say bony) soup? Or more like a very saucy roast?

Here's the plan: I shall reveal the awful things I did to the meat, which is cooking right now. Then I shall post updates on how it looks, what happens, and eventually, how it tastes. In short, pretend this is a cooking show and that I'll get back to you after the break to show you what's going on.


Breast of Lamb

1 cup of red wine

2 large or 3 small red onions

1 teaspoon each:
garlic powder

What I did:

1) First, I tried cutting the meat, because I decided that the kind of meal I wanted would be easier to prepare and eat if I wasn't dealing with two large, long chunks of meat. Initially, I was just cutting it in chunks that still contained the bones, as if it were pieces of rib. (Indeed, making lamb "riblets" is one suggested serving for breast of lamb.) Then I realized how easy it was to slice the meat off the bone, using my "sportsman knife." This produced long, thin strips of fatty meat. There are probably still a few pieces with bone in them, but in general I tried to avoid the bone. All of the meat was chopped into big chunks. The pieces of meat are larger than stewmeat, but mostly smaller in width than a hamburger patty. This, I hope, will give greater flexibility in serving.

2) After the meat was cut as best I could, I put in the fridge. Then I peeled two large unions and sliced them in thick rings. I greased my large oval crockpot and placed the onion rings on the bottom.

3) Now it was time to season the meat. After initially toying with the idea of using garlic and rosemary, I instead opted for a mix of strong flavored herbs. I mixed all the seasonings together in a bowl and covered the lamb chunks with the resulting mix. It ended up being a good amount of spice, I think; the meat was pretty thoroughly covered, in any event.

4) I spread the lamb chunks over the onions slices, and sprinkled the last of the seasoning mix over the whole thing. Then I poured a miniature bottle of red wine (1 person serving) over the entire thing.

5) I put the lid on, turned the crock on "low," and walked away. The plan is to let the meat cook for about 6 hours.

Tune in next time to find out what happened in my amazing dinner experiment. Will the results reveal my ingeniousness, or my stupidity?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well? How was it???

10:31 AM  
Blogger Teresa H.T. said...

Sadly, it ended up being far too fatty. The taste wasn't bad, but it made us sick to our stomachs afterwords. So while this cut of meat might be good roasted in an oven (where the fat can escape), I can't recommend cooking it in a crockpot.

11:14 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home