Easter lamb cuts fat, keeps flavor

Matthew Mead/Associated Press

Smaller portions of protein, such as lamb steaks, look plentiful when artfully arranged on a plate.

By SARA MOULTON
Associated Press

I love lamb, in every way and every cut, but I donít eat it very often because of the same thing that tends to make it so very delicious Ė its fattiness.

Still, all bets are off during Easter, when I happily bow to tradition. In Easters past, Iíve roasted a whole leg of lamb or part of a leg, and prepared it in a Mediterranean fashion. Trouble is, thereís always so much left over. So this year, Iím going with smaller lamb steaks that are cut from the leg, one of the leanest cuts of lamb (especially if you also trim away any fat).

In fact, the leg is so lean you have to figure out how to replace the flavor and moisture that goes missing when you kiss the fat goodbye. In this recipe, that is accomplished with a rosemary-garlic rub with added salt. When you rub a piece of protein with salt and let it sit, the salt eventually makes the meat juicier. It works like a brine, minus the liquid.

Having chosen a lean cut of meat, I also wanted a lean way to cook it. Grilling fit the bill. The problem is that grills are banned here in New York City. And elsewhere in the country, many people still havenít hauled their grills out of storage for the season yet.

The solution is a grill pan. In my opinion, every home should have one. Grilling done properly Ė that is, as long as you donít incinerate the ingredient in question Ė is a healthy way to coax flavor out of meats and vegetables, not least because it requires very little fat.

Grilled marinated lamb all by itself is pretty darn tasty, but I wanted to gild the lily a bit. After all, it is Easter. Because I already was giving the lamb the Mediterranean treatment with a rosemary-garlic rub, I thought why not top it with an egg-lemon sauce, a stalwart of the Greek culinary repertoire?

But egg-lemon sauces can be tricky because the sauce is thickened only by the egg. If you donít cook it enough, the sauce wonít thicken. If you cook it too much, the eggs scramble. So I stabilized the sauce by adding cornstarch, which makes it creamy and curd-less, and allowed me to keep it hot over low heat without any worries.

I finished the sauce with chopped baby artichokes because artichokes and lemon are such a happy pair. I like frozen artichokes because unlike the canned or bottled varieties, thereís no salt or oil added to them. Then I caramelized them under the broiler for a few minutes to concentrate their flavor. Of course, if you have the time and inclination to prepare and cook fresh baby artichokes, please go ahead. You can poach them in acidulated water until tender, then add them to the sauce.

How to serve this dish? One of our problems these days is what is delicately referred to as portion control. Less delicately, we eat too much. My strategy is to present protein on a plate so that it looks plentiful, even though the portion isnít huge. In this case, 4 ounces of sliced steak, fanned out a bit, looks like more than 4 ounces of an unsliced steak.

Just be sure to let the steaks rest before you slice them so that theyíre nice and juicy. And remember to add the juice from the plate with the resting lamb to the sauce, which will marry the two. See for yourself; itís a happy marriage. Every biteís a winner.

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