And farm to table doesn't stop at produce. American lamb is a national delicacy, prized by restaurant chefs. Sheep are raised in almost every state, but Colorado is one of the top five producers. Though fresh lamb is available year round in our country, spring lamb is a favorite paired with the earliest of fresh herbs and vegetables.
Sheep are natural herbivores and foragers, grazing various grasses and legumes. This diet results in lean and nutritious protein. Ranchers take great care to use their sheep as a sustainable resource — creating environmental balance throughout their acreage.
Thanks to a partnership between the American Lamb Council and the American Culinary Federation, lamb has gained awareness and popularity. Locally, the Colorado Proud program began 10 years ago — an effort to educate and identify this state with its indigenous products. Chefs, along with the American Lamb Council, have promoted this national treasure through exhibitions like The Taste of Vail to the delight of consumers.
Restaurant Avondale's executive chef, Jeremy Kittelson shares his technique for roasting and serving a leg of lamb.
"This is a clear winner for a spring time dinner party," he said. "Just add the first of the fresh veggies and you've created your own farm to table meal.
Roasted Colorado leg of lamb
- Yield: 3 cups
- 1/2 cup capers, drained
- 1 bunch parsley, washed and bottom of stems removed
- 8 anchovy filets
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup pitted nicoise olives
- 1 cup olive oil
Pulse first five ingredients in a food processor until they are well blended and chopped. Place in a large non-metallic bowl. Add olive oil and mix well. Add leg of lamb and rub mixture over entire surface. Refrigerate lamb in the marinade overnight.
Olive Salsa Verde
- Yield: 11/2 cups
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- 1 bunch fresh chervil
- 1 bunch fresh tarragon
- 1 bunch fresh chives
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 1 Tablespoon capers
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 lemon, zest and juice (season juice with salt & pepper)
- 1/2 cup quality green olives, pitted and chopped
Chop all of the herbs very fine with a sharp knife. Make a paste out of the anchovy and the capers using a mortar and pestle. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl with just enough oil to make the sauce resemble pesto.
Roasting the lamb
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place lamb on a rack in a roasting pan, discarding excess marinade. Place the lamb in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and continue to cook for about 1 hour longer for medium-rare, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers about 140- to 145-degrees (be careful that the thermometer does not touch the bone.) Remove lamb from pan and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Slice the meat into 1/4-inch thick slices. Serve with Olive Salsa Verde.