Just over 100 chefs, farmers, and foodies showed up to the first annual Louisville Lamb Jam at 21c Museum Hotel yesterday to learn about using the entire lamb from nose to tail, and what an interesting way to spend a Sunday afternoon it was. Lively bluegrass music from Chris Rodahaffer (Left in photo in slideshow) and Dave Hower (right in photo) entertained the audience as they arrived and enjoyed lamb canapes paired with Michter’s Bourbon cocktails. The mouth watering canapes included harissa lamb meatballs, focaccia with spring pea mash and lamb carpaccio, and buffalo lamb fries (buffalo as in spicy) from Proof on Main, and lamb mac arancini (deep fried rice balls with folded in braised lamb neck) with a salsa verde from Harvest. Josh Meador and Steven Graham did their best to keep up with the crowd, serving the two special cocktails “Thank Ewe” (Michter’s rye, Averna, Amontillado sherry, and Mission fig syrup) and “On the Lamb” (Michter’s bourbon, Ginger Lime Cordial and Bevcherovka over crushed ice).
Lexington’s Chef Ouita Michel and Proof on Main’s Chef Mike Wajda gave a very thorough demonstration on taking the lamb carcass apart and using every part of it, starting with the neck — a source of lamb steaks. As they worked their way down the lamb, they pulled out the organs and removed the testes, explaining the testes were the source of lamb fries that had been passed around. Chef Wajda went on to demonstrate his preferred methods for using the tools, like a saw and knife, and best practices for cutting. I was surprised when he explained to the audience that they will often auction off lamb cuts at Proof, coming into the dining room to announce what they have available to be purchased and cooked that evening.
“This is really interesting,” said Bill Decker, who raises sheep and is involved in boards dedicated to goats and sheep, “Because not many people know how to do this anymore.”
After the demonstration was over, people flooded toward the chefs to thank them and ask questions before moving into adjacent rooms for tastings of pastrami lamb heart and lamb tongue bánh mì from Noam Billitzer at Proof and lamb tartare from Chef Jeff Dailey and Chef Ryan Smith at Harvest. As I moved through the audience afterwards, everyone seemed pretty excited as discussions ranged from the benefit of raising lamb over cattle, opinions on the tastings and best methods for raising lamb.
“People know how to butcher a whole pig, but they don’t know how to butcher a lamb,” said Valerie Samutin of Freedom Run Farms, one of the organizers of the event. “I’m so delighted to see people take such an interest.
Decker said another Lamb Jam will take place on July 28 at the Red Mile, 1200 Red Mile, in Lexington, Kentucky.