Sunday, November 22, 2009

Old Lamb??

Dry aged beef is a standard on many high end steakhouse menus. The aroma and flavor is deeper and more complex and the price tag is warranted. At the CIA, we age a new beef strip loin every 10 days or so. They sit for around 4 weeks until a deep, dark, semi-moldy crust is formed. We do a tasting in class and the students get to taste the difference between a dry and wet aged beef.

About 2 months ago we were breaking down a lamb carcass. The students watched the demo and then teamed up to bone out a leg of lamb. We had a mix up and opened too many bagged legs. I decided to save one leg from the whole carcass and hang it in the cooler, thinking we would bone it the next day. Then I decided to let it age for about three weeks, like the beef.

Lamb, like beef, has a nice fat cover on the outside and a deep red color. In beef we typically age the middle meat cuts from the loin and rib. In lamb, the leg is the largest primal and can be aged as long as a beef striploin. We trimmed off the small flank steak piece and hung it where there was plenty of air circulation at about 35 F. In three weeks it shrank about 15% and became much firmer. It didn't lose much to trimming due to the fact that not much of the lean muscle is exposed. We boned the leg and cut off the sirloin and then did the same with a fresh leg. Out came the cast iron skillet and a little salt and pepper. The flavor differences were very similar to what we find in beef. The aged had a deeper, richer flavor and the taste lingered longer.

So is it worth it? I think of aging almost like another spice. It adds flavor but costs extra. I've served dry aged butterflied leg of lamb years ago at a function and the response was very positive. If you dry age beef, try dry aging lamb.