Saturday, June 28, 2008

Breast of lamb Ste. Menehould

I've been wanting to try cooking with lamb belly (also known as breast of lamb) ever since I tried it for the first time at Momofuku Ssam bar. So a few weeks ago I picked up a piece from Florence to take to PA with me. I placed my order over the phone, and the person warned me that it was mostly fat and bone. But I was not deterred.

It looked like a rack of ribs. I think these are equivalent to the spare ribs and belly of the pig.

I looked to my trusty Meat Book, and there was a recipe for Breast of Lamb Ste. Menehould. Ste. Menehould is a method where you braise something, press it, cut it up, cover in bread crumbs, and bake.

I braised it with a typical mix of aromatic vegetables for 3 hours.

Then I let it cool in the braising liquid enough to slip out all the bones, the ribs and something I think was the sternum. I pressed the deboned belly in the braising liquid between two differently sized casserole dishes, the top one smaller than the bottom and with bottles of tonic water in it to weigh it down. And it all went into the refrigerator overnight.

This is what the pressed product looked like the next day.

It looks a bit like bacon, eh? I wonder if anyone has ever bothered to cure lamb bacon. That's an idea! But I'm sure they have. I'm beginning to realize in cooking that pretty much anything that seems like a new idea is an old one.

Anyway, the rest of my pictures are lost because we lost our camera when we went back to Manhattan.

I cut up the pressed lamb into fish stick sized pieces; dredged in flour, egg, and panko; brushed with melted butter; and then baked them on a wire rack to heat through and broiled them to brown (I almost burned a side).

They were pretty awesome. But I realized that I'd had something like it before two times. Once was at Momofuku Ssam Bar of all places. Another time I went, they did a different preparation of lamb belly from their roasted lamb belly, and it was essentially Ste. Menehould style with fancy sauce (I made tartar sauce for mine, they used a violet gastrique). Another restaurant did pork belly a la Ste. Menehould. But they never call it Ste. Menehould for some reason. And now that I think of it, Hagi has a Ste. Menehould pork belly dish too, although they deep fry theirs. I wonder if that's technically Ste. Menehould then. Who knows?

This is a good technique. You can use it for any cheap and fatty cut. It's also supposed to work well with pig's feet and shanks. Pretty much anything you can press together. I'm going to be looking for any excuse to use it again.

Update 7/31/08
I made this dish again last week, so I have a picture of the final product. It looks a bit more appetizing than the intermediate steps.

We have more limited space in our New York kitchen, so I had the idea to use one of those Chinet paper plates to hold the flour, egg wash, and panko. Everything is self-contained, it's less messy, and you can throw the whole thing away after you're done.

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