Once linked to white tablecloth restaurants and mint jelly, American Lamb is now finding its way onto menus and tables beyond fine dining.
“Today’s restaurants are moving beyond the rack to use economical cuts of lamb such as shoulder, ribs and legs,” said Megan Wortman, executive director of the Denver-based American Lamb Board. “Ground lamb, which can be used in place of other ground meats, has especially grown in popularity – both at retail and on menus,” she continued.
Lamb is one of the most common proteins in cuisines around the world and appears in many globally-inspired dishes. Highest menu penetration for lamb is at Indian, Mediterranean and African restaurants. Economical lamb shoulder is used in many stews, curries and tagines and most recently has starred in lamb birrias. Lamb leg is often roasted or smoked and served in wraps and sandwiches such as lamb shawarma or chunked and skewered for lamb kebabs. Nicholas Priedite of Priedite BBQ features lamb ribs, often called Denver Ribs, as a special on his pop-up restaurant’s menu. ”Lamb ribs are more savory than other ribs. You can use a broader spice palate and create a more exotic dish,” he explained, “we do whole lamb barbacoa, lamb shoulders as well as lamb ribs.”
Ground American Lamb, typically an 80/20 mix, is used in keftas, samosas and spicy sausages. Merguez, a North African Lamb sausage known for its spicy kick, has been growing in popularity and is used in menu items from flatbreads to Scotch eggs.
Lamb burgers now appear on many casual dining and fast casual menus. Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., with 90 locations spanning across 16 states nationally, ran a limited-time offer for a Mediterranean Lamb Burger this past summer. The burger featured two griddle-cooked, seasoned American Lamb patties on a toasted kaiser bun with feta cheese, sliced tomato, grilled onions and peppers and Taziki sauce.
“The Lamb Burger was an overwhelming success this summer! Our guests loved the Mediterranean flair added to comfort food and sales surpassed our expectations,” said Dan Simpson, CEO of Taziki’s.
“While the focus is on global cuisines, today’s diners are seeking local sourcing,” said Wortman, “when chefs prepare local lamb, they’re supporting the nation’s shepherds and their families.”
The American Lamb Board reports that there are about 80,000 family-owned sheep operations in the United States. Sheep can be found in every state – from small flock grazing on the grasses of the Northeast to larger flocks foraging in high mountain ranges in the West.
For more information on economical cuts of lamb and suggested menu items, visit www.americanlamb.com