Available year-round, lamb still tastes of spring

Although "spring lamb" is a term about as archaic as "spring chicken," this succulent Oregon commodity still is considered a harbinger of the season.

But the fact is that very good, young, tender lambs are on the market all year long. This means that any time you have a hankering for delectable lamb stew or a sizzling platter of herbed chops, a trip to the supermarket will remedy the situation.

Even so, there are people — myself not included — with prejudices against lamb, claiming they don't like the flavor or the odor. The only thing that can cause a bad flavor or odor in good-quality lamb is cooking at too-high temperatures. This is because lamb fat, unlike other animal fats, burns at a lower heat. As long as the meat isn't roasted at temperatures exceeding 325 F, there shouldn't be a problem.

Although I don't classify lamb as an economy meat, some parts tend to cost less than others. While the loin chop, rack and leg are considered primo, the shoulder and shank portions provide the greatest money-saving potential. Whatever cuts your budget will support, you're bound to find a recipe or two here that will suit your taste.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com. See additional recipes at www.mailtribune.com/freshapproach

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