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On the Menu: Not a Baaa-d Idea

Lamb has long been a staple in dishes around the world. Cultures from Greek, to Australian to Mongolian rely heavily on the meat as one of its main sources of protein. Sheep are one of oldest domesticated animals in the world, so it’s no surprise lamb is also one of the most common meats consumed around the globe. 

If pork is considered the other white meat, lamb should be thought of as the other red meat since it has become one of the first choices for innovative riffs on traditional beef or pork dishes, such as chili, Bolognese sauce, burgers, and meatballs. 

Lamb (pulled shoulder and ground)took center stage at Catersource Conference & Tradeshow’s Culinary and Competition Stage when Catering by Design’s Chef Alexi Mandolini demonstrated innovative ways to incorporate this protein into a catering menu. 

Prior to becoming Chef of Creative Development at Catering by Design in Denver, Mandolini  landed her first Executive Chef position with Amazing Edibles early in her career where she worked for seven years. She also worked with Boka Catering Group and gained experience with Chicago’s Michelin-star Chef Giuseppe Tentori. 

The following pages offer two of the recipes Mandolini demonstrated during her session on the Culinary and Competition Stage. Bon Appetite!

Photo courtesy the American Lamb Board

Lamb Empanadas with Red Chimichurri

Yield: 50

Ingredients

5 lbs ground American lamb
2 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T smoked paprika
1 T diced oregano
1 T ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne
1 cup green onion, sliced
1 cup golden raisins
Kosher salt
50 empanada prepared dough slices, thawed
2 eggs, whisked

Method

  1. Heat skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil; sauté onion and garlic until translucent, about 6 minutes
  2. Add lamb, paprika, oregano, cumin and cayenne; sauté until lamb is browned and fully cooked. 
  3. Add onion and raisins. Remove from heat; set aside to cool.
  4. Arrange empanada discs on a flat work surface. Fill with 2 tablespoons of lamb filling. Brush edges with egg wash.
  5. Fold half of the round over the filled half and pinch edges together to seal; crimp edges using a fork.
  6. Arrange finished empanadas on a parchment-lined sheet tray; brush with egg wash. Bake 375°F until golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Serve with red chimichurri.

Red Chimichurri Ingredients

1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh parsley
16 oz roasted red peppers, drained
1 cup piquillo peppers, drained
1 shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 T smoke paprika
½ cup olive oil
Kosher salt

Method

  1. In a food processor, pulse cilantro, parsley, peppers, shallot, garlic, vinegar and paprika until fully incorporated.
  2. Stir in oil; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Photo courtesy the American Lamb Board

Mini Shakshuka with Braised Lamb, Poached Quail Egg & Zhug

Yield: 50

Ingredients

3 lbs American Lamb shoulder, braised and shredded
2 T olive oil
Two red bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 Fresno peppers, seeded and diced
2 shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup tomato paste
1 T cumin
1 T sumac
1 T smoked paprika
1 T Aleppo pepper
64 oz plum tomatoes, canned
Kosher salt
50 quail eggs

Method

  1. Heat large cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil; sauté bell peppers, Fresno peppers, shallots and garlic until translucent, about 6 minutes.
  2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, sumac, paprika and Aleppo pepper; cook until fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes; break up the tomatoes using a wooden spoon. Cook mixture for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until tomatoes are broken down; season with salt and pepper. Add lamb to the tomato mixture. 

Zhug Ingredients

2 bunches cilantro
2 bunches parsley
3 jalapenos, seeded and diced
6 garlic cloves

Method

  1. In a food processor, pulse cilantro, parsley, jalapeños, garlic, caraway, cardamom and cumin.
  2. Slowly add oil until mixture is fully incorporated; season with salt and pepper. Store in refrigerator.

Preparation & Assembly

To serve, spoon tomato mixture into mini cast iron skillets. Form wells in the tomato sauce using the bottom of a ladle. Crack quail eggs into the wells. Arrange skillets on sheet trays and bake at 375°F for 5 to 7 minutes or until eggs are fully cooked. Garnish skillets with Zhug and sprinkle with additional Aleppo pepper if desired.

Photo courtesy the American Lamb Board

Za’atar-Spiced Lamb & Labneh Pizzettes

Yield: 50

Ingredients

3 lbs American lamb loin
2 T olive oil
1 T dried thyme
1 T coriander
1 T cumin
1 T toasted sesame seeds
1 T sumac
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups labneh (recipe follows)
50, 2-ich cripsy pita rounds (recipe follows)
Torn mint leaves for garnish

Labneh Ingredients

24 oz plain whole milk yogurt
2 tsp kosher salt

Crispy Pita Rounds Ingredients

10 6-ich rounds pita
2 T olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Method

  1. Rub lamb loin with oil. In a small bowl, combine thyme, coriander, cumin, sesame seeds, sumac, salt and pepper to make Za’ater spice blend. Rub Za’atar spice blend and garlic over the lamb. Over medium-high heat, heat skillet; sear lamb loin on all sides until golden brown. Roast lamb at 375°F until medium rare. Allow lamb loin to rest; slice thin.
  2. For the Labneh:  Line a large strainer with cheesecloth. Place yogurt in cheesecloth; sprinkle with salt. Gather corners of cheesecloth to cover the yogurt. Twist the cheesecloth tightly and tie to a wooden spoon allowing the wrapped yogurt to hang over the strainer. Set in fridge for 24 to 48 hours. Remove labneh from cheesecloth and discard whey.
  3. For the Crispy Pita Rounds:  Cut pita rounds into 50 mini pitas using a 2-inch round cutter. Arrange the pitas on a parchment-lined baking sheet; brush pitas with oil and season with salt. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes at 425°F until golden brown and crisp.
  4. To serve:  Place a slice of lamb and dollop of labneh on each crispy pita round. Garnish with torn mint.

Photo courtesy the American Lamb Board

Lamb “In a Blanket” with Harissa Tomato Jam

Yield: 50

Ingredients

5 lbs ground American lamb
3 sheets puff pastry, frozen
2 eggs, whisked
¼ cup eeverything bangel seasoning
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 quart harissa tomato jam (recipe follows)

Harisa Tomato Jam Ingredients

2 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small diced
2 T harissa
32 ounces fire roasted tomatoes, canned
1 cup sugar
2 T sherry vinegar

Method

  1. Over medium-high heat, heat skillet. Cook lamb until browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel to cool.

  2. On a floured surface, roll out puff pastry into 12 x 10-inch sheets. Cut the rectangle crosswise into three 10- x 4-inch strips. Brush the pastry strips with egg wash. Divide lamb mixture into 3 batches. Spoon 1/3 of the lamb mixture lengthwise down the center of each pastry strip. Fold the long sides of each pastry over the filling and press to seal. Arrange rolled pastries on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Brush pastries with egg wash and sprinkle with everything seasoning, salt and pepper. Bake pastries at 425°F for 12 to 16 minutes or until golden brown. Serve pastries warm with Harissa Tomato Jam.

  3. For Harissa Tomato Jam:  Heat skillet to medium-high. Add oil and onions; sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add Harissa to pan; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar and vinegar; bring to a simmer. Cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring often. Remove from heat and cool. In a food processor, pulse tomato jam until large chunks are broken down. Do not puree the mixture; finished jam should still have texture.

 

Amber Kispert-Smith

Content Producer

Amber is the Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Comunications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food...