OK.. the presentation kinda sucks with this one. But bare with me, this was something special indeed.
When we were at Sea Breeze Farm a couple of weeks ago (see previous post). I heard the M word, shouted out from the owner, in the kitchen. In most kitchens, that M word starts with “mother” and ends in… well you get it. Not here though. George said that magical word “Mutton”.
Before I turn a bunch of people off, lets just talk about Mutton for a second. In England (maybe here in the US too..) there is the term “mutton dressed up as lamb”. This is usually rather harshly (and mostly quite deservedly..) said about a woman that dresses waaaaay too young for her age.. You know the type – we have all seen it!! That just gives mutton a bad name.
Mutton is older lamb. Sheep if you will. Most mutton sold is somewhere between 1 and 3 years old. Mutton has always got a bad rap from people. People think it is tough, and you have to cook it forever to make it tender. Complete bollocks.
Mutton is an incredibly fine meat. Very well developed in flavor, a flavor far more complex even than the best lamb. A half way similar comparison could be between veal and properly aged steak. Veal might win in tenderness, but a decent mature steak wins on flavor complexity. The same with lamb vs mutton.
Now, I did have some truly amazing lamb at Sea Breeze. The best in fact that I have ever tasted in my life. Their mutton however is really where it is at. So rich in flavor, with great depth. All of this of course is down to their impeccable raising of their animals, and also their long hanging process, to let the meat properly develop the flavors that make mutton so special.
This was really the absolute best time to buy mutton too (a couple of weeks ago – it still is now to be honest). The sheep have been feeding for a while now on sweet spring and summer grass, which really helps the flavor (and health benefits) of the meat. If they are then slaughtered and hung for a good amount of time (I believe Sea Breeze hung this for 6 weeks) you get some impeccable quality meat that kicks lamb to curb.
In my mind, properly raised mutton doesn’t really take any longer to cook than lamb. You want to serve good quality mutton pink in the middle, as you would lamb. All that complexity will be lost if overcooked, and that can be easy to do.
As we push into fall, I tend to like to start serving my food a little differently. During summer I pair my proteins with fresh, light vegetables – very delicate presentations. As we come into fall, I like to pair top quality proteins (both meat and fish) with simple starches, and the leave the vegetables for another course.
So here we have some mutton with some simple flageolet beans. Flageolets are wonderful French beans that tend not to loose their shape, texture or flavor during cooking – they hold up really well in soups too, without going mushy. They are also a pretty rich tasting bean. King of beans if you will.
This is all served with a really simple mutton jus – made from the bones of the mutton chops I bought.
And what is a noisette? Generally it is a small round of meat, normally a loin or fillet. For this I cut the meat very carefully out of the chop. This is then sliced thinly and put on top of the beans. I really did this because I wanted a few bones (from the chops) to use for a jus.
Anyhow… it worked perfectly together. The mutton was fabulous, as mentioned above. The beans rich and hearty, and jus tied everything together. A great simple dinner for the start of Autumn.
Drake seems to love mutton too. Good lad, I knew he had taste.
Mutton Noisette, flageolet beans, mutton jus
4 mutton chops
1/2 cup flageolet beans (dried)
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 leek, white part only, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
10 sprigs of thyme
10 sprigs of parsley
small handful of finely chopped fresh parsley (for the beans)
10 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons of good quality butter
Preheat oven to 400F. Carefully cut the meat out of the chops to form nicely shaped thick discs. Put the meat back in the fridge. Trim the bones of really thick pieces of fat. Put the bones in a small roasting pan, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Drain the roasting pan of fat after 15 minutes, and again at the end of cooking.
Put the chopped onion, carrot leek and celery in another roasting pan, and toss with a little olive oil. Roast this in the oven until colored – about 25 minutes.
Put the roasted bones in a stock pot, and cover with water. Bring to the boil gently. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, and skim the surface of any impurities. Add in the roasted vegetables. Add enough water to cover the bones and vegetables. Cut a large square of cheesecloth. Put the bay leaf, half the thyme, half the parsley and half the peppercorns on the cheesecloth. Bring up the sides to form a rough bag, and tie the top. Pop this into the pan with the bones and veg. Simmer this for about 1.5 hours. Carefully skim the surface every now and again to remove any more impurities.
Whilst the jus is cooking, prep the beans. Put the beans in a saucepan, and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then take them of the heat and let them sit for an hour. Drain the beans, and put them into some fresh water in a saucepan– enough water to easily cover the beans by a inch or two. Cut another square of cheesecloth. Onto this square put the remaining thyme and parsley sprigs, and the remaining peppercorns. Tie this up to form another herb bag. Simmer the beans for 40 minutes, or until just soft.
Drain the beans when they are cooked.
Line a sieve with a clean tea towel. Set this over a large bowl. Strain the stock through the cloth lined sieve, into the bowl. Pour the stock into a clean pan. Boil this over a medium/high heat to reduce it down to about a cup of liquid.
Heat a cast iron skillet up over a medium/high heat (or any other thick skillet will do). Add a little oil to the pan, and when hot put the mutton into the pan. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the meat – most likely about 4 minutes a side to keep the inside medium/rare. Once cooked, let the meat rest, under some foil for 5 minutes.
Whilst the mutton is cooking, lets finish the jus and the beans. Put the beans into a clean pan, with 2 tablespoons of butter. Let the butter melt, and toss in the chopped fresh parsley. Gently stir to combine.
Whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the warm jus.
To serve: Cut the noisettes into slices, across the grain of the meat. Put a mound of beans on a plate. Pour half of the jus around this. Top with the meat.