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Jamison Farm offers opportunities to prepare a recipe and then consume the dish

| Sunday, April 29, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
Rack of lamb with slow-roasted shoulder and portabella- mushroom sauce with oven-roasted rosemary potatoes and freshly picked asparagus. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
John Jamison, left, talks with guests during dinner at the Jamison Farm on April 21, 2012. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

When it comes to locavore cuisine, you can't get closer to your food than with a meal at Jamison Farm.

The journey of the lamb is measured not in miles, but feet, as it traveled from the grassy green slopes that surround Jamison Farm in Latrobe to the two tables in John and Sukey Jamison's dining room. Tiny rib chops share plate space with spears of asparagus picked three hours earlier from the garden that's within steps of the kitchen door.

For those seated at the tables, the meal is the pleasant conclusion of one of Sukey Jamison's monthly cooking classes that ends, not with a multiple-choice quiz, but by consuming the lesson.

The Jamisons have been raising lambs since 1976. In 1985, they moved to their 210-acre Westmoreland County farm where they produce about 5,000 lambs per year on a natural diet that's free of hormones, antibiotics, herbicides and insecticides.

Most of them end up on menus in internationally known restaurants that include Cafe Boulud on Manhattan's upper east side and La Toque in California's Napa Valley.

Home cooks can purchase those same lamb shanks, roasts and ribs from their online site or at McGinnis Sisters Special Food Store in Adams.

For years, Sukey Jamison been sharing her expertise with others through occasional cooking classes for privately arranged groups. About 18 months ago, she decided to start promoting them more widely. She now offers a monthly class for interested home cooks and foodies.

Those who sign up learn preparation techniques and cooking tips, have an opportunity to watch Sukey Jamison in action and opt for a little hands-on experience. The lesson ends with a full meal from appetizers through dessert.

"It's fun to watch the people who come," she says. "Everybody has something in common. We get some very advanced diners."

Alice T. Carter can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

Fresh and easy

A pair of baby lamb chops and their pristinely exposed bone handles bring a sense of occasion to any meal. Sure, you can pay a butcher to do the work for you. But tips and instructions that Sukey Jamison revealed during a recent cooking class at Jamison Farm in Latrobe, make it easy enough for home cooks to accomplish.

The do-it-yourself method comes additional bonuses:

• Meat that's pared away in the prep process can be ground and used in other recipes, such as Spinach and Lamb meatballs.

• Most of the work can be done in advance, leaving you time to perfect your reply to guests compliments with an off-hand delivery of "thanks, I did it myself."


Rack of Lamb

A classic, elegant frenched rack of lamb makes a great impression.

When choosing an un-frenched rack of lamb, count the ribs rather than buying by the pound. Plan on 2 to 3 ribs per person. You might need to buy more than one rack to serve your guests. After frenching, an unfinished four-pound slab of ribs will weigh about 2 1/2 pounds.

  • 1 rack of lamb (9 rib bones, about 4 pounds before frenching)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Advance preparation: Begin by scoring the meat horizontally on the fat-covered side just below where the curve begins to flatten out. The score should penetrate through the meat so it can be seen on the reverse side.

Turn the meat over to expose underside and make cuts as close to the bone as possible. Follow the scoring to create notches. Remove the sections of meat and reserve for other recipes.

Using a sharp knife, scrape the remaining meat and fat from the tops and sides of the rib bones until they are clean.

Beginning at one of the rack's short ends remove the cap -- the upper layer of meat -- by loosening it near the membrane, then grasp firmly and pull to separate the two layers. Retain the meat for other recipes. Cover and refrigerate the meat.

To cook: If the meat was prepped in advance, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Rub the cap side (the top, fat-covered side) of rack with the mustard, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Place the oil in hot saute pan over medium heat and sear the rack on both sides to give it a slightly brown finish. Alternately, you can give it a few minutes under the broiler for browning.

Place the lamb rack and pan into an oven heated to 450 degrees and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once and checking for temperature. When the internal temperature reaches 125 to 135 degrees on a meat thermometer, remove from the oven.

Allow the rack to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving into individual chops .Cut by grasping the rack at the bone end and separate into individual chops so that each section has a bone in the middle.


Spinach Lamb Meatballs

Reserved meat can be trimmed of fat and ground for use in recipes such as this.

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen, chopped spinach,thawed and drained
  • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium-sized clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary, basil and/or oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Whisk the egg, then add with all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, to mixer or food processor. Process briefly to incorporate the ingredients. Form the mixture into 1 to 1 1/2-inch meatballs and place on a sheet tray. The meatballs can be frozen at this point on a tray, then, when frozen, put in a freezer bag or container.

To prepare immediately (if frozen, allow to thaw for 1/2 hour) in a skillet or sheet tray, use the olive oil to coat the pan, lay the meatballs on a prepared tray in a single layer and not touching. Place the meatballs in oven at 425 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to keep the meatballs from sticking.

To serve as appetizers, insert toothpicks into the meatballs that are whole or cut in half, or combine with the cooked pasta of your choice, olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Makes about 35 meatballs.


Jamison Farm classes

Jamison Farm offers two way to learn from the pros at monthly or private cooking lessons:

• The May 19 session on grilling techniques for lamb already is sold out. But space still is available for the easy summer cooking class that features lamb recipes for picnics and parties from 6 to 9 p.m. June 23. New classes are posted regularly at www.jamisonfarm.com.

• Lamb 101 sessions also can be arranged for private groups of up to 18 people. Cost of cooking classes are $65 per person, and include a lesson with opportunities for hands-on experience and recipes and a sit-down dinner, where you consume the items prepared and any wine you have brought with you.

Details: 800-237-5262 or www.jaminsonfarm.com

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