From St-Julienne, L’Agno et le Lapin, 450-831-3424, lagno_et_lelapin°live.ca
This baby is a gem of a local product that I recently discovered – even the finest lamb I have ever tasted. It’s like a cross between veal and Quebec lamb: tender, lean but succulent, savoury, delicate and clean tasting. Even the fat is good.
Weighing in at 26lb, with a yield of barely 4kg of meat including all the bits like the 30g of delicious tongue - you do not want to waste a bit of this.. It ends up being expensive, but given the quality, definitely worth it if you value good food or can charge for it as a business. Think of it as Kobe beef or whatever your top meat reference is and then it is cheap. In any case, of course, you have to make smart use of the carcass. The tenders are the size of my index finger. I was surprised to see the head on (I thought that was a no-no since BSE, but I guess the laws are loosening again, especially with non-industrial meat like this.) I had no way to get to the brain, but for the puny morsel of fluff, I didn’t feel too bad if that’s all I was wasting. I felt like I paid homage to the little lamb. After all, with its eyes staring back at me, I had no choice but to do my best.
I was afraid much of it would turn out as ‘in between’ meat (too lean to be perfect for a braise, but not necessarily tender enough to be perfect for a quick sear/roast, like the round on beef say. To be safe, I kept most for pan-searing/roasting/cooking sous-vide. I braised one shoulder, the shanks, the neck. Oh my God, was the braise good. But most of the shoulder and leg was tender enough to cook up as #1 meat too. I’m torn. This baby was meant for the rotisserie. I made bacon with the flank pieces, but also seared up some for myself au naturel, and it was delicious. You can’t go wrong with bacon treatment, but for this delicate meat, I think leaving it pure might be the best way to go. The bacon would woo a lamb hater or even a veg head to the other side, but for the rest of us, to be true to the meat, I say - No marinade, nothing, just a good sauce from the stock/braise jus. And it appears you can cook it how you want, as long as it is gently - as in a slow, but not so long braise, or a last minute pan-roast or bbq over medium heat.
Run by two girls my age (yay), this is a small and relatively new enterprise, in this location anyway. I admire their courage and hard work, but mostly I am just floored by their product. The heavier lamb (approaching traditional in taste, but still like the best) is bigger, more cost efficient. Still only sold by the carcass, so you can forget about rack of lamb for all your friends, but who needs that anyway.
They are raising rabbits too; I can’t wait for that. I am so psyched to have this kind of quality product in my region. Cheers to Nathalie and Genevieve!
I just ordered in a bigger beast (40lb) classified as 'agneau leger' or small lamb from the same producer. Finishing with 6kg of primo meat (plus liver, lungs, kidneys etc), it is more cost efficient, but a different deal - tasting more 'lamby', but still tender and delicious. I kept most of it to braise this time around. And while I treated the baby more delicately (wild grape jus, morels), for this guy, I am going with bolder flavours and more zip to match the deeply flavoured, richer meat - olives, peppers, crinkleroot, pickled daisy buds.. Good stuff.