Last week I went to New Orleans for a trip sponsored by the Tri-Lamb group, where we got to learn all about lamb and culinary medicine at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University. My trip was paid for, but I did not receive compensation to write this recap post.
I got in to NOLA around lunch time, so I had a few hours to grab lunch and explore the French Quarter. I love walking around cities on my own. I know a lot of people hate traveling and eating alone, but I feel like it’s the best way to soak up a cities energy.
For lunch, I went to Trenasse which looked like it had a really good menu and ratings on Yelp, but when I got there, it seemed like it was basically the New Orleans version of a steakhouse, where a bunch of fancy business people would go for a lunch meeting. I prefer things a little more funky. Oh well. While the fried oyster salad was a little disappointing, the fowl gumbo was really good.
After lunch, I wandered around French Quarter and managed not to spend all my money at an antique shop. Does anyone know where I can get mid-century glass barware for not $500?
The event started with cocktail hour at the hotel we were staying in, International House Hotel (highly recommend – wish I took pictures of the gorgeous bar and lobby!). One of my friends, McKenzie, works on the Nourish with Lamb campaign, and it was SO great seeing her for the first time since FNCE last year. She’s honest to goodness one of the kindest people on the planet. Also along with me on the trip were my RD friends Katie of Nourish. Breath. Thrive. and dietitian for the Phillies, and Serena, one of the RDs who blogs at Teaspoon of Spice. Also got to meet some online RD friends in person for the first time – Rebecca Scritchfield, Manuel Vilacorta, Liz Spittler of Food & Nutrition Magazine, Angela Lemmond, Betsy Ramirez, and Willow Jarosh.
Our first dinner was at Angeline, where we enjoyed a southern inspired five course meal. I loved how the chef used lots of heirloom whole grains in the dishes, like a local red wheat in the cornbread, and a cornmeal to make bucatini for our pasta course (my favorite!). My other favorite part was thelamb boudin noir. It was pretty polarizing at the table but I was a fan! And the vegetables on that plate were soooooo good – still dreaming of that cauliflower cream!
The next day we headed off to the Goldring Instutte for a day of learning about lamb and culinary medicine. It’s such a cool program, run by a few culinary RDs and a physician. Their focus is helping people eat healthier by teaching them cooking skills focused on the Mediterranean dietary pattern, rather than focusing on calories, good/bad foods, measuring, etc. That’s obviously a message I can get down with. One of the big focuses around lamb was showing us how to use all the different cuts, and how to stretch a small amount to feed lots of people by adding lots of vegetables and grains.
Some highlights from the day:
- Seeing an entire lamb get butchered into the cuts we’d be cooking with the next couple days. Not for the faint of heart, but I think there’s something to be said for respecting food more when we know where it comes from.
- Got to learn all about shepherding from a rancher. Since we don’t eat a ton of lamb in this country (comparatively speaking), it’s almost entirely small family farms. We spent an inordinate amount of time covering breeding, since us mind-in-the-gutter RDs had questions that needed some answering.
- Learning about the history of lamb in the US. Apparently it used to be way more popular, but fell out of style after WWII when GIs had to eat lots of mutton (which has a strong taste) while overseas.
All of us RDs broke off into groups to cook lunch. We were each assigned a different cut of lamb and a recipe. I made a green chili lamb and white bean stew with Rebecca and Willow. Then we all got to sample each others dishes.
We had some off time before dinner, so I met up with my step-cousin Cristina and one of my sorority sisters Katie at a pisco bar downtown for a drink.
For dinner, we went to Killer Po’Boys. While their po’boy menu looked AMAZING (I will be back for you roasted sweet potato with black-eyed pea and pecan spread and greens!), we had a course meal prepared by their chef that highlighted local ingredients. I love how the meal showed how Southern food can be really quite healthy. I think we get the rep for everything fried and soaked in butter, but REAL Southern food is all about beans, greens, grains, and seasonal vegetables (with a little pork, of course).
The next day we went back to the Goldring Institute for the morning, where we spent some time learning about lamb from a culinary standpoint, then got back in our groups to play a game of lamb “Chopped.” Our group was assigned ground lamb and a very intimidating lamb loin roast. We decided to make lamb and chickpea meatballs and deconstructed lamb fajitas. We served the meatballs three different ways - with the absolute BEST simple tomato sauce (a bit of Dijon mustard and nutritional yeast was the trick), a Jamaican curry (mad props to O’Neil, our fourth year med student who was on our team, doing a rotation at Goldring, who taught us all about Jamaican cuisine), and a harissa sweet potato hash. I was mostly in charge of the lamb fajitas, and I have to say, I’m pretty proud, especially considering I rarely cook meat. I rubbed the lamb loin with a mix of cumin, garlic powder, brown sugar, smoked paprika, ground coffee, salt and black pepper, grilled it, then finished it off in the oven. Then I made some simple black beans, sautéed peppers and onions and a mango salsa to serve it with. The rest of the teams made some pretty awesome dishes, but I have to say, I think we won!
With full bellies, it was off to the airport to catch our flights home!
Anyway, hope this gives you some inspiration for cooking with lamb. One of the main lessons I learned at Goldring was cooking by taste using recipe-suggestions vs. recipes. It's really hard to mess up if you're willing to taste as you go along and get creative!
If you’re interested in cooking with more lamb, below are recipes with lamb and a few recipes you could easily swap lamb!