There’s almost no better test of a home cook’s mettle than a large roast. Working with hefty sub-primal cuts like prime rib or leg of lamb (the subject of my previous piece) demands much stronger boning, roasting and carving skills than relying on pre-trimmed, conventional component parts like pork chops and beef tenderloin medallions.
But whatever sub-primals might ask of you, they return in spades: You get the ability not just to feed a large crowd, but also to wow them with an impressive display: That glorious hunk of roasted goodness emerging from the oven; the anticipation of that first, mouthwatering slice from the carving knife; that exquisite reveal of a perfect rosy interior framed by a brown, crispy, salty crust.
But let’s say you’ve already proven yourself with prime rib and leg of lamb. What’s next? Short of roasting an entire animal on a spit, how do you take your special-occasion cooking to the next level?
Here’s how: Roast up a whole saddle of goat or lamb.
What’s a saddle? Butcher specifications can vary a bit, but basically, the saddle of any animal is two whole loins, complete with the tenderloins that are on the other side of the bone. In reality, it is a what T-bone steaks look like in their sub-primal (whole-muscle) form.
If you took a cleaver to a goat or lamb saddle, you would end up with a bunch of small lamb or goat t-bone chops. But don’t start hacking away just yet…
With their smaller size relative to beef and pork, creatures like lamb and goat share the special trait of being some of the only animals that have a whole saddle that can be cooked for a small group of people at home. One saddle of lamb will feed 8-10, and a goat about 4-6, while a saddle of beef would feed about 50-60, and require large cooking setups to prepare.
As meat roasting goes, cooking a saddle is pretty simple, but for easy slicing, it’s best to take out the backbone before you cook it. This also creates a cavity begging to be seasoned with a mix of fresh herbs. See below for a demonstration of removing the bone, and seasoning with fresh herbs and breadcrumbs.
After your saddle is de-boned, seasoned and tied, it gets pan-seared, roasted or grilled to form a crackling crust, then cooked until medium or so, depending on your taste, then rested and sliced. Just like other roasts, there’s plenty of pan drippings for a great sauce, too — always a crowd pleaser.
For this basic recipe, I’m going to share a simple side of buttered turnips: an age-old partner to lamb and goat. If you have a local co-op, keep your eyes open for different varieties of turnips. Pictured are scarlet, gold, and purple-top, listed in order of the amount of sweetness each one has.
Back to the saddle. The tricky part about cooking a saddle isn’t the prep or execution. It’s finding a whole, high quality saddle to work with in the first place. Large cuts can be a hard sell at grocery or butcher shops due to their size and unit cost. Plus, with saddles, butchers can often get a higher price per pound by selling lots of smaller chops as opposed to one large piece, so they don’t hesitate to break those saddles down.
As a chef, when I’m in search of lamb or goat I look to my favorite purveyor: Shepherd Song. They ship around the country, and their 100% grass-fed product is the best I’ve tasted. Browse through cuts of their carefully selected heirloom breeds, and have them shipped right to your door at www.shepherdsongfarm.com
Herbed Goat or Lamb Saddle
This is a method for a roasted saddle and an optional side of buttered turnips. Serve with some cooked hearty greens or a salad for a complete meal.
If you don’t have a pan big enough to fit a saddle, you can brown it at 475F for 15-20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 250F until it’s finished cooking.
• Sharp paring knife for removing the backbone from the saddle
• Butchers twine, for tying the roast
A goat saddle will serves 4-6 as an entrée, Lamb 8-10
• 1 whole lamb or goat saddle
• Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
• 2 ounces fresh herbs: I like a combination of equal parts rosemary, thyme, and sage, combined with some chopped Italian parsley, but other herbs like savory could also be used. You’ll need about 5 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs in total.
• 4 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs, preferably panko
• 1 tablespoon flavorless oil, like grapeseed or canola, for searing
For the buttered turnips (optional)
• 2.5 lbs turnips, the smallest you can find, peeled and cut into wedges, if the turnips are very large they could also be diced into cubes.
• 2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
• ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
Prepping and seasoning the saddle
1. Before you remove the backbone from the saddle, put a small handful of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley on the cutting board and chop all of the herbs together at the same time until fine. Reserve the herbs for seasoning the saddle.
2. Referring to the pictures above, remove the backbone from the saddle, score the fat side in a crosshatch pattern lightly to help the fat render, then season on both sides with salt and pepper.
3. Lay the saddle fat side down and season with the chopped herbs, then the toasted breadcrumbs. Press the mixture down on the meat to help it adhere, then roll it up tightly, seam side down.
4. Tie the saddle tightly with butchers twine to ensure even cooking. Allow the saddle to come to room temperature before you start to cook it.
Cooking the saddle
1. Preheat the oven to 250º F
2. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan (a 12 inch pan will fit
a goat saddle). Turn on the oven hood, a fan, or open the window, as searing can make a little smoke and possibly set off your fire alarm.
3. When the pan is hot, sear the saddle deeply all over,about 10-15 minutes, removing fat from the pan as it renders that you can use to cook the turnips, if using. Either way, I like to remove fat as it gathers in the pan while searing to help cut down on any smoke.
4. When the saddle is deeply browned, place it in a roasting pan on a rack, or on top of some carrots or vegetables so the meat doesn’t directly touch the pan, which can cause the bottom to cook faster than the rest of the roast.
5. Cook the saddle in the oven until a thermometer reads 135, which will come out around medium from the low temperature cooking. Allow the saddle to rest in a warm place while you prepare the turnip, if serving.
Preparing the turnips (optional)
1. Increase the heat of the oven to 375º F
2. Put the rendered lamb fat in a large pan and heat until just smoking. Add the turnip wedges, season with salt and pepper to taste, then cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5-10 minutes. If needed, transfer to turnips to the oven to finish cooking.
3. When the turnips are just tender, add the shallots, and butter to the pan and stir to combine. Cook the turnips for 2 minutes more, double check the seasoning for salt, adjust as needed, then finally toss with the parsley and keep warm while you carve the saddle.
Carving and serving
When the turnips are done, transfer the saddle to a cutting board and slice with a sharp knife into 1 inch slices. Arrange the sliced saddle on a warmed platter surrounded by the turnips and serve immediately.
Not too long ago, after visiting yet another great eatery in Brooklyn Park, we asked the question: What else is going on up there in Brooklyn Park? Fortunately for us, someone took that question as other than rhetorical and pointed us towards even more places to try.
One of the places recommended was Crazy Cajun. This restaurant, which just celebrated its 3rd anniversary the first weekend in May, is helmed by owner John Nguyen, who hails from Texas. He grew up with Louisiana-style food and in a family with restaurant experience, but ended up here in the north, missing his favorites.
The menu has a variety of seafood iterations, from straight-up fried to fried and in a po-boy to boiled to raw oysters. There are also chicken wings, turkey necks, and gator, but seafood is the star here.
We tried the Dun’s Special Po-Boy ($13), which was fried catfish, shrimp, and oyster on a sizable portion of sturdy bread, with a zippy Cajun sauce, pickles, and lettuce and tomato. It’s the kind of sandwich you don’t want to eat on a first date, because you will make a mess of it. Go with someone you’re comfortable with and smash this beast into your face. It’s crunchy and tender and flavorful, with the fish mild and the Cajun sauce packing a little heat (but nothing overwhelming).
We also had that evening’s special (Wednesday nights only) of a fried seafood platter ($20 on Wednesdays). This is an enormous platter of fried oysters, shrimp, and catfish, served with hush puppies and three kinds of sauces, all made in-house: tartar, cocktail, and Cajun. The fried fish was flawless, crispy and hot, but not dripping with grease, and with the fish still juicy and not dried out. Like the fish, the hush puppies were beautifully fried and fresh, but still tender on the inside.
Perhaps most telling, the sides we tried were also excellent, rather than just things tossed on the menu to fill it out. The crawfish etouffee ($6 cup, $10 bowl) was wonderfully thick and stew-like with generous portions of tender crawfish and a little bit of heat. The red beans and rice ($5 cup, $8 bowl) was equally satisfying. Nguyen told us he simmers the beans for 5 1/2 hours, and uses a ratio of 1 1/2 pounds of bacon per 10 pounds of beans. There’s also pork sausage and ham hock, all of which leads to a smoky, salty (but not overly so) dish that stands well on its own.
Crazy Cajun also offers DIY seafood boils, with prices varying depending on ingredients chosen. Options include blue crab, snow crab or king crab; crawfish, jumbo shrimp, or mussels. Of course you can also add pork sausage or corn and potatoes, and there are varying levels of heat as well as two kinds of sauces to choose from. We suspect that this is an excellent option too.
Owner Nguyen hasn’t forgotten his Texas roots. He’s not only a chef, but a woodworker, and the restaurant has both a hightop table shaped like the state of Texas, and a long picnic table painted like the state flag, both of which he built. Crazy Cajun indeed.
Cajun food in Brooklyn Park
8578 Edinburgh Center Drive
Brooklyn Park, MN 55443
Wed-Fri 4-p p.m.
Sat 2-9 p.m.
Sun noon-9 p.m.
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: No / No
ENTREE RANGE: $5-$38
NOISE LEVEL: Can get noisy when busy
Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email email@example.com.
The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.
Rice Plate With Pork Three Ways at Quang (#408)
This rice dish is “pork three ways” with eggs, and it sounds like overkill (or just right to cure a hangover), but none of the elements are heavy or overwhelming. The boneless pork chop is thinly pounded and slightly sweet while the pork skin and crab and pork pie are excellent sidekicks with contrasting flavors and textures. I suspect it’s a polarizing dish that you love or hate. Pro tip: request chili oil to give the semi-sweet dish some rustic heat. Editor’s Note: The original version of this story misidentified the dish number on the menu.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Joshua Page]
Kiss My Cabbage Curry Kimchi
As tasted at the First Taste preview of Minneapolis farmers markets, the Kiss My Cabbage Curry Kimchi is one of those condiments that can go with nearly anything – it has elements of sweetness, heat, depth of spice, acid, and umami and it complements just about any main dish without overpowering it.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by Becca Dilley]
Clarity of Purpose by Fair State and Surly
The result of a Surly/Fair State collaboration, Clarity of Purpose is an effort to create a New England-style IPA with the style’s full body, strong hop aroma, juicy flavor, and mild bitterness, but without any of the haze that drinkers typically see in this sort of beer. Mission accomplished: Although this isn’t as juicy and intense as the style can be, it’s mellow, tropical-fruity, juicy, and hop-kissed without being hazy or in any way astringent.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #4 | Submitted by James Norton]
Gravlax with Hataleipa via Breakfast with Beatrice
Without exaggeration, one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten all year. Rough-cut homemade gravlax made from Coastal Seafoods Atlantic salmon (cured with salt, pepper, brown sugar, dill, and aquavit), served on molasses and rye hataleipa (Finnish quick-to-make “emergency bread”) with cream cheese. The hataleipa comes from Breakfast with Beatrice, the new Beatrice Ojakangas book by University of Minnesota Press.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]
Buckwheat Napolean from The Bungalow Club
After tearing through the smorgasbord and a couple outstanding pastas at The Bungalow Club (loved the preparation, presentation, and flavor of the vegetarian lasagna), dessert seemed one dish too many. But the Buckwheat Napolean proved us wrong. The refreshingly light and restrained treat brings together slightly bitter, toasted buckwheat pastry with tangy rhubarb and creamy mascarpone.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by Joshua Page]
This post is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Press.
Breakfast with Beatrice: 250 Recipes from Sweet Cream Waffles to Swedish Farmer’s Omelets
Breakfast may be, as some say, the most important meal—but not unless it’s the best tasting. With the help of James Beard Cookbook Hall of Famer Beatrice Ojakangas, that is precisely what breakfast will be. With recipes drawn from her storied career and honed in her home kitchen, Breakfast with Beatrice prepares the cook—seasoned veteran or novice—to make breakfast the perfect start to every day.
Sweet or savory, classic or surprising, fancy or short order, these are breakfasts for every occasion, with simple ingredients, straightforward instructions, and the occasional anecdote (Veterinarian’s Breakfast, anyone?). Whip up a smoothie on the go. Chill a parfait overnight for a ready-made morning treat. Dress up good, old-fashioned porridge for a hot and hearty start to the day. Make a meal of the smorrebrod, a breakfast sandwich favored in Denmark, with anything from cheese and fruit to smoked fish and meat piled on a slice of crusty bread. Whether you favor a grain-rich loaf or a handy quick bread, or a sweet treat like Cardamom Coffee Braid or an elaborate Danish pastry, these recipes will satisfy your morning palate. For more leisurely breakfasts (or for dinner when it’s kids’ choice), there are pancakes and mouth-watering cream waffles to warm the heart. From quiches and casseroles to waffles with berries, Breakfast with Beatrice is a treasury of recipes worth waking up for.
Please join us for the launch of Breakfast with Beatrice on Saturday, May 5 at the American Swedish Institute. (More information here)
With the help of James Beard Cookbook Hall of Famer Beatrice Ojakangas, breakfast will be not only the most important meal of the day, but the best tasting. With recipes drawn from her storied career and honed in her home kitchen, Breakfast with Beatrice prepares the cook—seasoned veteran or novice—to make breakfast the perfect start to every day.
This post is sponsored by Chef Camp.
Chef Camp is teaming up with Lowry Hill Meats and Fulton Beer for a limited-run series of skill classes here in Minneapolis. Learn camp-y skills and enjoy some tasty bites served up by camp instructors past and future!
Get Sharp with Knife Skills
Thursday, May 24, 2018
6:00 PM 9:00 PM
Chef Camp instructor Nick Zdon (below) will show you how to sharpen your knives with a stone and care for them at home. Then Chef/butcher Erik Sather from Lowry Hill Meats (above) will demonstrate some basic knife skills and handy tricks.
Cast Iron Care and Cooking
Thursday, June 21, 2018
6:00 PM 9:00 PM
Chef Camp instructor Nick Zdon will teach you the best ways to care for a piece of cast iron. Then, we’ll teach you how to best cook with cast iron, and you’ll leave with a recipe or two perfect for the campfire.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
6:00 PM 9:00 PM
Chef Camp instructor Nick Zdon will teach you all about Japanese-style knives. Then Chef Yia Vang of Union Kitchen (top) will give a hands-on demonstration of the best ways to break down a whole chicken and turn it into yakitori skewers.
Get details and tickets at: http://www.chefcampmn.com/events/