Sunday, April 29, 2012

smoked lamb forequarter

Friday night we had a hell of a dinner: smoked lamb sandwiches with two kinds of sauce, with sides of smoked macaroni and cheese (I won't go into a recipe: assemble your macaroni and cheese and "bake" it in the smoker instead of the oven) and eggplant.

Lamb forequarter

Lamb forequarter

After Easter, I snatched up an 8.5-lb lamb forequarter before the availability of lamb dwindled for another year. The forequarter is, well, what it sounds like: a big hunk from the front of the lamb, the shoulder with some attached ribs. It's a great, great cut for braising and other low-and-slow cooking methods, and I wish it were more often available. I salted it and rubbed it with smoked paprika and coriander, and left it uncovered in the fridge overnight.

I started the stovetop smoker on the stove, until the smoke had been going for a while, and then transferred it to the oven at 250 for eight hours. The resulting lamb was super tender, without falling apart on its own. Because it's a stovetop smoker, it wasn't as smoky as if I had a Weber or something, but so it goes.

My first encounter with smoked lamb was terrible. I was in Kentucky and looking forward to barbecue lamb, but as amazing as everything in the pit smelled from the parking lot, the lamb arriving swimming in a horrible sauce - I don't even remember anything about the sauce at this point except that it was bad enough we didn't finish our lunch, and strong enough that you couldn't tell the meat was lamb.

This lamb wasn't drowned in sauce; this lamb was fucking honored.

Skordalia; smoked lamb rib; pomegranate barbecue sauce

The sandwiches were very simple: slice of potato bread; skordalia; chopped lamb; red sauce; slice of potato bread.

I wanted both a white and a red sauce to suggest the white barbecue sauce of Alabama and the red barbecue sauce of, well, so many other places. But the white sauce is the Greek dip skordalia: garlic and ramp bulbs pureed (after blanching the raw garlic) with olive oil until emulsified, spiked with a little lemon juice and salt, and thickened with a little bit of mashed potato (very little).

The red sauce is closer to a traditional barbecue sauce: red bell peppers cooked in the smoker until cooked enough to peel, pureed with an equal quantity of tomato, with a bunch of pomegranate molasses to both sweeten it and make it noticeably tart. It's seasoned with an assortment of Middle Eastern spices - thyme, sumac, cumin, coriander, chile pepper, black pepper - but you don't want to go overboard with the spices, just like you don't want barbecue sauce to be noticeably herby. The spices are very much in the background compared to the pomegranate.

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