Sunday, April 6, 2014

Boneless Leg of Lamb

Sous-Vide Boneless Leg of Lamb
This was my first try at Sous-Vide Lamb. I don't make Lamb very often but when I do I like the Low and Slow method.  Simply done....Sear the outside of the meat and cook in a 185-200 degree oven until an internal thermometer reads 131 degrees. Nice and pink is how I like my meat. 

Seeing how I have never cooked Lamb using the Sous-Vide method before I took to the internet for insight. Douglas Baldwin of Practical Guide to Sous-Vide Cooking  cooks his Leg of Lamb at 131 degrees for 24 hours. I have come across several blogs that have listed times from 8-12, 24, 26, 48 hours.  I have read posts that suggests 8-12 hours of cooking because of the enzymatic forces at work. Cooking too long can adversely affect texture of the meat dramatically making it too soft. I think it depends on the meat personally. Short Ribs is a good example where long cooks are necessary to dissolve connective tissue.

I never gave a lot of thought about the Lamb I bought until I started cooking Sous-Vide. You see I wanted to cook the perfect Lamb and this takes proper techniques and the right meat. My only recollections of Lamb came from childhood and my own culinary escapades. I never ate enough Lamb to consider all the particulars. I just remember that sometimes the Lamb I ate or roasted tasted gamier and sometimes not. I never thought of why until now. 

What you will find in stores are New Zealand, Australian and USA Lamb. From farm to farm, country to country they all taste just a little different from each other. There are many opinions as to what is better, American Lamb or the down-under Lamb. Hmmmm....This is what I say....Buy it , cook it and eat it and form your own opinion. I have come across several conflicting opinions online as to the gaminess of Lamb. I think there are several variables that you have to consider before you state absolutes about Lamb. Things to consider, Country of origin,  grass fed or grain fed, grain fed at the end, and breeds too. Some Aussie Lambs have been cross bred with American Lamb to make them bigger.  

Here is the general consensus. Down Under Lamb are smaller, contain less fat.  Having less fat makes them harder to cook.  They are grass fed (most of them) and are gamier. American Lamb cost a whole lot more than the Aussies Lamb and are bigger. Generally have more fat and are grass fed. Most of the time the American Lamb are sweeter too. Some Lamb are grain fed only depending on the farm in which they come from. Some rely solely on grain, some only get grain several weeks before being slaughter to fatten them up. Grain fed Lamb tend to be less gamy.  Again many things to consider before forming any absolutes. 

The Food Lab wrote a great article on Lamb and is a great read. 

I purchased my Australian Boneless Lamb from Costco for $4.99 a lb.  Down the road I am going to order several Boneless Leg of Lambs from online companies from across the country and compare them all to each-other. 
I used traditional spices for the Lamb.  I butterflied the Lamb open and created some additional pockets (making slits in the meat) in the meat to add extra paste flavor too.  Before applying the past I coated lamb with Salt and Pepper. I made a olive oil paste out of Olive oil,  Garlic, Rosemary, Thyme, Cilantro and Green onion.  My biggest mistake was not sauteing everything first. Cooking Sous-Vide at very low temperatures did not allow the sweetness of the garlic to come out which is normally done at higher temperatures. 

The tying process can be tricky because your goal is to create a perfect cylinder. 

Knowing how to tie a butcher's knot is helpful. I salted and peppered with outside and coated it with some of the paste.

All Vacuumed seal and ready for the water bath.

I set the Sous-Vide at 131 degrees and decided to cook for 26 hours. Here is a picture of it floating in the water bath.
After 26 hours it's finally done. It looks very unappealing due to the Sous-Vide's inability to produce the Maillard reaction. Easily remedied by a hot grill, Saute pan or butane torch.  

I used a Butane Torch to produce that very nice dark exterior that everyone is use to seeing.  I should mention that I foiled a pan and put a rack on top before I used the torch.  I wanted to avoid a fire. Additionally I removed the trussing string that held everything together.   

After completely browned I completed that rest of the dishes and with the reserved juices that were collect in the Vacuumed bag I made a sauce from. I simply sauteed a shallot, created a roux, de-glazed with the reserved juices and added a Veal Demi-Glace

Final thoughts. I was overall very happy with the Lamb but came away with this introspection. Everyone who makes Lamb has different temps and times for and at times are extremely different and most claim that it came out great. I think it is a matter of preference and most importantly where the Lamb came from. 

The tenderest parts of this lamb were located near the  larger fat pockets. The sections in which fat was scarce it was on the tougher side but still great. I might get entirely different results with a American Lamb or New-Zealand one. I will save that for my next blog.  

Update- 11/25/14- Retrospectively now having done this a couple of times I would say less is more. The stuffing was really overpowering and I needed to lose a lot less. Still trying to figure that out. To mellow out the stuffing cooking first (saute) is really necessary.