a little lamb from...albion?

Achiote-crusted lamb over black garlic smear with minted smashed pea and mushroom saute

I've been in the mood for a little lamb as of late - it's been a while since I've last had it, and I needed to satiate my craving.  That being said, I decided to direct myself towards a local, brilliant mercato italiano (yes - you know the one. and yes - I know, I have a problem). As I traversed the aisles, still bewildered by everything and still wanting to purchase everything, I finally made my way over to the meat counter. Talk about beautiful cuts of meat! Veal, sweetbreads, Pat LaFrieda beef, porchetta, you name it! They were even sampling beef crudo - pretty bold (and delicious) if you ask me.  I finally reached the other end of the display to  check out the lamb and....wait a minute. WHAT?! This lamb is from ALBION, MICHIGAN!? Excuse me sir, is this for real? Why, yes, straight from Marvin Dane in Albion! I couldn't help but chuckle. Why was I not aware of this? How did I live in this town for mroe than three years and no one informed me of this gem?! Could it be true?! With all of these questions up in the air, I obviously had to pick up some (craving for lamb + alma mater pride = necessary).

the randomest thing I have ever encountered.
Let's see what this lamb can do! I picked up a few other goodies from the store, purchased a few more culinary doo-dads, and made my way home (after stopping at NY Cake & Bake - epic bake shop with hundreds of cookie cutters, every color food dye/dust you can imagine, etc. and Kalustyan's - the specialty store to end all stores.  I've never seen so many spices and THINGS available in one place!) Moving on!

Back home, I had to figure out what to do with all my goodies and how to bring them all together in a dish!
Bluefoot mushrooms
lobster mushrooms
black garlic
If you haven't noticed, I am very visually stimulated - so when something LOOKS amazing, I need to find some way to use it.  Hence, my purchasing of the bluefoots, lobsters, and black garlic! I was heading in the direction of a very earthy flavored meal for today.  I absolutely LOVE mushrooms (seriously, when I was younger, I had a strange obsession with the dancing mushrooms in Fantasia - how can anyone resist mushrooms dancing to The Nutcracker Suite!?) I've even had my moments while foraging for mushrooms up in Northern Michigan - some very successful, others leaving me stranded from losing keys in the forest.

There was quite a wide selection of mushrooms available: matsutake, chanterelle, porcini, shiitake, portabello, morel (which are not even mushrooms technically but...), etc.  I couldn't resist the Bluefoot mushrooms (more lilac to me, but I guess that would be just an awkward name), or the lobster mushrooms.  I actually came to find that lobster mushrooms are actually random mushrooms that have been infected by a fungus, giving it that bright red color.  It eventually envelops the entire mushroom, and changes the flavor of it a bit as well.   And the black garlic - this is a Korean delicacy that's been around forever, but only recently introduced on the large scale in the US.  This is plain old garlic, fermented for about 40 days in a heated/humid atmosphere.  The sugars in the garlic essentially caramelize at a slow rate, changing the color, texture, and flavor of the cloves - when the fermentation is complete, it leaves you with a pliable, black, sweet, and savory clove! It's really delicious - if you like roasted garlic, this is even better.

fresh peas!
albion lamb (!?)
With all the earthiness already in this dish, I needed something to brighten it up a little (colorwise, and flavorwise) - luckily, I had some fresh shelled peas! Lamb, mushrooms, peas...sounds like a plan to me!

Let's talk about this lamb for a second.  Obviously well fed (check out that ring of fat), beautifully marbleized throughout, tender, and get this...It smelled like cake.  I know that sounds INSANE but seriously, it did. I second, nay triple-guessed myself and every time I took a whiff, there it was again, and believe me there is NO cake in my house either.  So, either it is just super-fresh and amazing, or there is something strange happening in the town of Albion. Or a combination...I'll go with that.

Time to cook! Here's what you'll need for two servings:

Olive Oil
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallot or onion
1 cup or so various mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shelled peas (or frozen if you can't find fresh)
2 T mint leaves, finely chopped
2 T Italian parsely, finely chopped
4 cloves black garlic
2 t Achiote powder
2 lamb chops (could be 4 depending on the size)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

The mushrooms and the peas don't take too long, so you could start off with the lamb chops - they'll need some time to rest, and you can utilize that period to make everything else.  Take your lamb chops out of the fridge at least 10 minutes before you're cooking them - you don't want to throw a cold steak onto a hot grill or into a hot pan. Season both sides with salt and pepper, and if you have it Achiote powder.  I had Annatto seeds on hand and ground them up to add another flavor profile - you could stick with salt and pepper though.
Annatto seeds, pre-grind.  These also are very earthy tasting, and when ground, they almost have a mild horseradish scent

Onto the mushroom and peas! Slice your mushrooms up - I like being able to see the shape of the mushrooms in my dishes, so I halved a couple, as opposed to slicing them.  Heat another pan for the mushrooms, and wipe out the "lamb pan" for the peas. Heat over medium-low heat, and swirl in a tablespoon of olive oil into each pan.  Divide the shallots into each pan and let cook for a minute or two - add the mushrooms and peas into each respective pan - if you're using frozen peas, make sure they have thawed out first! Stir occasionally until just cooked through - you can even add a little slab of butter into each pan at this point if you'd like.  Dash in some salt and pepper into each, stir once more, and remove from heat. For the peas, take a fork and smash some of them up, add in your mint and parsley and stir until it's all combined. 

If you can find black garlic, smash the cloves around with a little salt and olive oil to create a paste.  Time to plate!

This is seriously a great combination of flavors, and Albion, I have to hand it to you, that was some dang good lamb! Tender, juicy, and extra flavorful.  Both mushrooms were delicious - the bluefoot was tender, meaty, yet velvety in texture, and the lobster mushrooms the same, but with more intense earthy notes to them.  The mint and parsley in the peas really brightened up everything in the dish, and that black garlic! It really kicked it up notch - it has almost a dark chocolatey, coffee, syrupy, flavor, with the great garlic notes still in the background.  Umami to the rescue.  

Someone just called from Yountville. Thomas?! Gotta go! 


Ashlie M said…
love your blog!!! xo you're so talented!
Anonymous said…
Bought that lamb. Loved it. Did you ever locate the farm? Sonnet
Anonymous said…
Lamb from Albion? Clearly this was the best lamb imo the U.S. however never been prepared by such capable hands. A true albion treasure this culinary blog!
Robin Dane said…
Hi and a very big gracious thank you to you Kat.I am Robin Dane the wife of Marvin Dane.
And I have to put on here way to go darling and to you kat for cooking it. Dane Farms
UkeTone Guy said…
Beautiful recipes, beautiful photographs!
Dianabol said…
Awesome blog, love it and, you are cute too.

plumbing said…
This is really a nice blog. Thank you for sharing this very interesting and lovely post.
Thank you all for your support - I'm glad you are loving the blog!
steel said…
Good blog, a lot of interesting posts.

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