We consider ourselves very lucky to finally have a local grocery store that actually carries lamb. Usually, each new store that opens up includes lamb in their meat case, just to make themselves look interesting, but as soon as the novelty wears off they drop it, except for the occasional leg at Easter. Boo. We did once get some lamb from a farm near my parents’ place, but it was closer to mutton and very badly butchered, to the point that the cuts were unrecognizable and hard to deal with.
But to our delight, Haggen (our favorite grocery store, apart from the co-op) has actually continued to have lamb in their case – we can always get leg and ground lamb, can often get loin chops, and every once in a while there is a package of riblets – what’s left after the breast meat is cut away. They’re dirt cheap, so we snatch them up and stuff them in the freezer until we have enough for a meal.
What to do with them? They’re pretty fatty, without much meat on them (so it takes quite a few to make a meal), and they’re always cut apart instead of left in a rack, so they’re a bit awkward to work with. I follow Mark Bittman’s suggestion of parboiling them for 20-30 minutes, then grilling. It works very well, since the fat has a chance to melt off a bit in the pot and the meat is cooked through – then all you have to do is oil and season them and broil or grill until crispy. The leftover broth from the boiling makes a fine addition to, say, lentil soup.
You could season the ribs any number of ways – I almost always go with a rub of salt, pepper and fresh rosemary mixed with some olive oil, but cumin and chile powder would be fabulous as well. The real star, though, is the crackly savoriness of the lamb, as you pull the bits of meat and fat off the bone. This is not a tidy meal – expect to go through a lot of napkins. You might want to take your glasses off first, as well. Or maybe that’s just us.