Tasty Lamb for Less: S.F.'s Halal Butchers

It's an open secret that halal markets offer some of the tastiest meat around, often at prices lower than you'll find even at Costco. I've learned from talking with the butchers that the animals are often grass-fed and come from farms in the Central Valley. Lambs and goats are brought in whole, and most of the innards are available.

This week I bought a 2.5-pound bone-in lamb rib roast for $10. I told the butcher, who didn't speak much English, to leave it whole. He took it over to the bandsaw anyway, and thinking he intended to slice it into chops, I called out to him to stop. I took the roast home, rubbed it with two tablespoons of ras el-hanout (recipe follows) mixed with two teaspoons of salt, wrapped it in plastic, let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, roasted it at 350 degrees to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, wrapped it loosely in foil to hold the heat, and let it sit for ten minutes before serving.

When I went to carve the roast, I realized that the butcher had probably intended only to saw through the chine bone to separate the ribs. I was able to chop through it with my cleaver, but in the course of doing that I killed one of my cutting boards. Oops.

Ah, well. My guests had some extra entertainment, the lamb was a hit, and I learned two lessons: Let the butcher cut the chine (I knew that, damn it), and if you're going to break bones with your cleaver, do it on a board that sits flat on the counter, not on one with feet.

San Francisco's Halal Butchers
Queen of Sheba, 1100 Sutter (at Larkin), 567-4322
Salama Halal Meat, 604 Geary (at Jones), 474-0359
For customer reviews and information on halal butchers elsewhere, see zabihah.com.

Ras el-Hanout

6 tsp. ground coriander
8 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. herbs de Provence
2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. hot chile powder
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. ground anise

Mix thoroughly. Makes about half a cup (enough to fill a tall spice jar).

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