Who doesn’t love the arrival of Spring? The Winter doldrums disappear and the temperature mellows. Mountain laurels fill the Austin air with the smell of sweet grapes, trees sprout new buds and plant shoots peak though the soil. I’m glad I don’t live in the Northeast any longer where this year’s Winter was particularly brutal and New Englanders are probably still awaiting mounds of piled snow and ice to melt.
The arrival of Spring also signals that Easter is right around the corner. Lamb is the protein of choice at the Brisket and Bagels’ table when it rolls around. I’ll take lamb any way I can get it: roasted, grilled, braised or in the case of this recipe, sous-vide. If you don’t know what sous-vide cooking is, let me enlighten you. The term means under vacuum. This is somewhat of a misnomer since food isn’t cooked in a vacuum, rather it is sealed in a pouch with the air removed. The pouch is then placed in a water bath at a constant temperature for a predetermined amount of time until the food is cooked. Since the water bath remains at the desired temperature it’s virtually impossible to overcook proteins, but sufficient time is needed for pasteurization to occur. Tough cuts like brisket and short ribs are transformed into fork-tender bites even when cooked at rarer temperatures.
The sous-vide technique has been used in restaurants for years and was also available for the home chef but often at premium prices. Now immersion circulators (the actual devices for sous vide cooking) are available at price points below $200. At Christmas, my wife bought my Anova Precision Cooker at a promotional price of $150. Some might find this costly, but really it’s no more expensive than many other cooking appliances or cookware. Shoot, if you really want to make something sous-vide but can’t pony up the cash for an immersion circulator, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats has a recipe for sous-vide steak using a cooler.
There are multiple resources on the web for cooking sous-vide including time and temperature guides. The technique is very safe, but there are some general rules to follow if you decide to cook, chill and then reheat the food at a later time. So be sure to read up before experimenting on your own.
As for the recipe itself, the hardest part is waiting for the lamb to be done. The salsa verde is super simple to make and doesn’t require anything more than a knife and a few minutes. Green olives replace capers but still retain that briny, salty flavor they lend to salsa verde. Don’t have an immersion circulator? Don’t give up on the recipe, the salsa verde will still pair perfectly with lamb no matter how you prepare it.
Sous Vide Lamb Loin with Olive and Mint Salsa Verde
- 1 1/2 pounds lamb loin, rolled and tied
- 2 rosemary sprigs (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter + 1 tablespoon for searing
- salt & pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 3 tablespoons green olives finely chopped (I used Cerignola olives)
- 1/4 cup fresh mint finely chopped
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 garlic clove grated
- salt and pepper
- Set up the immersion circulator and heat to water bath to 135 F.
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Transfer the meat to a food-safe-temperature-resistant food bag. Add the rosemary and butter. Seal the bag using a food vacuum sealing system such as FoodSaver.
- Place lamb in the water bath and cook for a minimum of 2 hours and maximum 4 hours.
- When ready to serve, remove the lamb from the water bath. Cut open the bag and pour off any juices. Use paper towels to dry the outside of the lamb.
- Heat a cast-iron pan on high just until it begins to smoke. Add the butter and sear the lamb for exactly one minute on each side, 4 minutes in total.
- Let the lamb rest for 5 minutes and then slice and serve with the salsa verde.
- While the lamb is cooking, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
135 will yield a perfect medium rare. Sous vide cooking is not generally recommended below 130 degrees. Don’t prepare the salsa verde too far in advance or the mint will discolor and look unpleasing, but still safe to eat.