Turkey is blah. (Assume that I'm talking about the commercially grown turkeys available to most consumers, not the wily and fascinating wild turkeys)
You have to do SO MUCH STUFF to it just to make it palatable for a holiday meal. It's big, takes ages to thaw, and is overwhelming for smaller families or individuals to cook and serve. I understand the history of Thanksgiving. I get that turkey is sort of traditional... but so are a lot of other foods that we no longer eat because they're just not worth it.
It seems that Thanksgiving is mainly about two themes: stuffing oneself with food, and being thankful for what we have. Either way, there's got to be a better way of celebrating it than cramming down chunks of dry, bland meat that have been soaked, injected, fried, glazed, and/or slathered with copious amounts of flavoring and moisture retaining compounds.
Here, I present one such alternative: lamb. Lamb loin, specifically, sliced into convenient chops, tender and moist without special tricks, enhanced with just a few simple ingredients (and in small amounts), and promising spectacular results with very little effort. How long does a turkey take to prepare from beginning prep to plate? Hours? Days, if you're thawing and brining? Yeah... this takes under 30 minutes, including prep time. It might take a bit longer if you're preparing more than one loin because you might need another pan... but not much.
One more thing... see that sauce on the meat? Yeah, there's a fair amount (mostly for pictures) considering what it is, but nowhere near the amount one would use of, say, gravy. No smothering crap with more crap here. All you need is a drizzle of intense, exquisitely flavored pan reduction. No flavor muddying thickeners, no extenders, no unidentifiable lumps. Once you try a mouthful of perfection, you'll likely think twice about going back to the cult of turkeydom.
Step 1: Choose your ingredients
In this recipe, I used:
1 lamb loin pre cut into chops
1 sprig rosemary (or... about 1/2 t dried)
a couple sprigs of thyme (let's say 1 t dried thyme)
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t salt
1 clove of garlic
1/4 of a large onion (or use 1 shallot if you have them - the stores here were out)
2 T olive oil
2 T condiment quality balsamic vinegar (decent stuff aged in oak barrels, NOT the outrageously expensive syrupy stuff, and not the cheap garbage made from white vinegar and flavoring/coloring agents)
2 T honey
2 T butter
1/2 C low sodium chicken broth or stock (or water is fine... this is mostly to keep the pan sauce from reducing too much while the onions are softening)
Find some lamb at your grocery store. New Zealand lamb is typically understood to be of a good quality. Some suppliers sell older sheep as lamb. Once the animal gets too old, the lanolin in the meat becomes pretty apparent. It tastes a bit... soapy. Mutton - gross, tough, strongly flavored older sheep; good lamb - fantastic, tender, mild flavored meat with absolutely no lanolin odor or taste.
There are some companies in the states that now offer locally grown high quality lamb. Read reviews online if you can, and get to know your butcher. Lamb isn't cheap; best to get your money's worth, and that does take a little bit of research.
In all honesty, I picked this stuff up (on sale) at our local wholesale club. I've had the lamb they sell here before, though, and it's always good. Your mileage may vary; a special holiday dinner probably isn't the best time to discover that your main dish consists of poor quality meat; no amount of herbs can compensate for that.
The rosemary and thyme were from my dying herb garden. They're a bit woody and dry, but whatever. They're still good. I used onion because the store was out of shallots. Shallots are a lovely relative of onions. They're small and purplish, and have a mild, subtle flavor. They're used a lot in French cooking, which is probably why they tend to be overpriced at stores. It's not like they're harder to grow than onions or garlic.