Until 3 or 4 years ago, I had an aversion to lamb. My father hated lamb, so we never ate it at home. My first experience with lamb (that I can remember) was at a Greek restaurant in Boston when I was a teenager; I ate a decidedly not fresh hunk of meat that left a horrible aftertaste for hours. After that, I swore off lamb. And Greek food.
Fortunately, after college, I decided I needed to expand my culinary horizons. In The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten writes about how moderate exposure to hated foods is the key to getting ride of aversions. He creates a 6-step program to dealing with a bunch of his own food phobias, including kimchi, Indian desserts, and yes, Greek food, by trying everything 8 to 10 times. I can't say my own culinary enlightenment was this organized, or steadfastly recorded for publication. But I do know that over the years of going out of my comfort zone I have come to love anything Greek I used to loathe, including olives and feta. And especially lamb.
Lamb has become, quite possibly, an addiction. Cooking at home or dining out, I can't help but crave the gamey taste of this meat. (Of course, Steingarten also writes that repeatedly eating the same foods is also as bad as specifically avoiding certain foods. Let's hope I'm not one of those people.)
I've already shared my Mongolian Lamb Stir-fry, adapted from Mark Bittman, which highlights cumin with lamb. Now for another great flavor...garlic. A few chopped cloves, Sichuan peppercorn, and soy sauce does wonders for a simple lamb stir-fry.
And fortunately in Beijing it's easy to find other cuts of lamb like thinly sliced fatty lamb for hot pot, and all those muscle-y parts good for braising. Heck, I can even buy a whole lamb if I wanted to. But I don't, since freezer space is limited and precious, and my inner Buddhist would balk at the idea. Well, at least I can satiate my cravings every few days with a small amount of lamb.
Garlic Lamb Stir-fry with Broccoli
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
- 1 pound lean lamb, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon rice wine or sherry
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed Sichuan pepper (substitute crushed red pepper if unavailable)
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Lay the slices of lamb in a shallow dish. In a bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil, the rice wine/sherry, salt, and Sichuan pepper. Pour the mixture over lamb, and turn to coat. Let marinate for 30 minutes.
- In a wok, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil until smoking, then add the lamb and garlic. Stir-fry for 2 minutes just until lamb changes color on both sides, then remove from wok and set aside.
- Leave 1 tablespoon of oil in wok and pour out excess. Add the broccoli and scallions and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the rice vinegar and remaining soy sauce and cook for another 1 minute. Return the lamb to the wok, add sesame oil, and stir-fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the lamb, broccoli, and sauce are thoroughly mixed. Serve immediately.
Adapted from The Book of Chinese Cooking