If pork is the other white meat, then lamb might well be called the other dark meat. A favorite in Argentina, it is not as familiar to American cooks or diners. Just take these statistics from the American Lamb Board, which confirms that Americans consume only one pound of lamb per year, versus 54 pounds of beef. These eaters clearly haven’t tried lamb with our Chimichurri, or it would be their new favorite.
We love lamb at Carlos Gardel, and so do our guests. Depending on the source of our lamb, Mom has different preferences for marinating and preparing it. Needless to say, Patagonian lamb, raised in the Patagonia region at the tip of South America, is our favorite. Unfortunately, it is not available for import into the United States. I must admit that no other lamb even comes close to the Patagonian variety for me. Perhaps this is due to the overwhelming joy I’ve experienced while indulging in this delicacy at the source. It cannot be overlooked that the air, grass -- and everything else for that matter – is slightly different in each hemisphere, and that these unique qualities influence the flavors of the meat, fish, and vegetables from each area.
Thankfully, New Zealand lamb is also quite delicious, and it is available in the United States. New Zealand lamb most closely resembles Patagonian Lamb in its size and flavor profile, likely due to their nearly identical grass fed diet and wild, free-range lifestyle. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll focus on the preparation of New Zealand lamb, since it is the closest substitute for Patagonian lamb, and it’s the variety we serve at our restaurant.
It’s worth noting that three sources of lamb are readily available in the U.S. The flavor profiles of each are different, depending on its breed and diet. Here’s a general overview of the most widespread varieties and their distinctive qualities:
New Zealand lamb: Six to seven months old; pasture raised; grass fed; and grass finished. All of these qualities contribute to its very distinct flavor.
Australian lamb: A bit older; also grass fed, but when necessary, supplemented with grain. One would think that because these animals are older, the flavor of their meat would be gamier, but the grain in their diet actually gives them a milder flavor.
Domestic lamb (most commonly from Colorado and the Midwest): much larger; as with most domestic beef, these animals are fed a diet including grain, mostly corn; making them the least gamey of all lamb meat available in the United States.
Tastes vary widely. Home chefs should experiment to see which type of lamb they prefer. In my family, we happen to love New Zealand lamb racks. They’re small and melt-in-your-mouth tender. So we recommend using them for this preparation.
Here’s our recipe for deliciousness:
1 lb. New Zealand Rack of Lamb
3 to 4 oz. Gardel's Chimichurri Spicy Balsamico
Kosher Salt, to taste
Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
1. Remove the racks from the packaging. Pat them dry. Slice the rack into individual chops by cutting in between each bone. Rub the Chimichurri over the chops. Place in a glass or stainless steel container and refrigerate for 24 hours. If using Colorado lamb rack, marinate for 48 hours, due to the larger size of the rack.
2. Before grilling, remove the ribs from the marinade and pat dry. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
3. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill. Lightly grease the grill rack with a neutrally- flavored oil, such as a vegetable oil or spray. Heat the grill until medium hot.
4. Place the chops on the grill, with the bone facing 10 o’clock (yes, as in a clock). Cook one minute. Move the chop (on the same side) to the 2 o’clock position for one minute. This will create nice grill marks. Flip over the chops over. Continue to cook for another two minutes for medium rare meat. Remove the chops from the grill. Brush with more Chimichurri.