We are so blessed to have the team that we do here at WSS. Each person brings great talent, big hearts, and a strong commitment to serve all our guests here with excellence. Let me take this time in this first WSS Culinary Blog entry to introduce the culinary staff that makes all the magic happen:

Stephanie—our Baker. She has been with us 3 years and handles the bread making and all things sweet. Her M&M pudding cookies and key lime pie have been big hits. She is a graduate of the Somerset County Technical Schools Culinary Department.

Denise—the PM Chef. Denise has been with us 4 1/2 years. She handles all the awesome family style and buffet dinners you’ve enjoyed here at WSS. Her meatloaf and alfredo sauce recipes put WSS food service on the map. Before coming to work at WSS, she developed extensive experience in the hospitality and food service industry working in different establishments locally.

Kevin R.—our AM Chef. We are celebrating his 2 year anniversary this month. Kevin takes ownership of all breakfasts and lunches, whether buffet or family style. His chicken salad and tomato bisque recipes are in a league of their own. Kevin is a graduate of the International Culinary Academy and worked in several prestigious properties in the Pittsburg area before joining the WSS team.

Nicki is our part time dinner assistant. She has been with us for 4 years. She is a huge help and brings an extra touch of quality when she is here. Nicki works in food service for the Bedford school district full time.

Isa is weeks away from finishing her culinary internship though the Excel Discipleship Program. With the skills she’s learned this year in the kitchen, we are excited that Isa will become the Chef at Camp Caleb for the summer.

Kevin A. will be the newest member of the team. He will be joining us in mid-May. His hard work and drive to learn will be an asset to the team. He is now attending Bedford County Technical School in the culinary program and has his eyes on attending the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in the future.

The Meat of the Blog

Have you ever wondered how lamb has become a staple item on Easter menus?

Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his crucifixion. The Resurrection secured our victory over death and provided full payment for our sins. Before Christ’s crucifixion, during the Passover, Jewish families would sacrifice a lamb as part of that ceremony. That lamb was supposed to be unblemished and represented an innocent sacrifice to atone for their sins. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He became the perfect sacrifice for us, sinless and innocent. And so, the lamb became a symbol of His perfect sacrifice.

Would you like to prepare lamb for Easter? It’s not a regular part of the typical American diet, so there may be some hesitation in trying it. It is delicious and not hard to do, so here are some tips and a little history into the preparation of cooking lamb, as well as a recipe for you to try out this Easter.

Did You Know

Lambs are baby sheep. To be labeled “lamb”, it must be slaughtered before it is 1 year old. As it gets older the flavor is less mild and less desirable. When the label reads “spring Lamb” this means it was slaughtered between March and October.

Mint Jelly. Why is mint served with lamb? Society seems to think mint jelly and lamb go together like peanut butter and jelly or butter on popcorn. There are a couple ideas out there and all could be true. The first one is that during Passover mint was considered a bitter herb and so was served with lamb at the Passover feast. The second and the one that I was taught, is that the first harvest of mint was in the spring coinciding with Passover and then Easter. It was served also to mask the gamey taste of mutton (mutton is a lamb that is 2 years old or older). So mint was at one time served only with mutton but has evolved to be served regularly with lamb.

The preparation history of mint jelly started with just finely chopped mint, salt and small amount of sugar. Then it became a mint sauce, which was prepared by chopping up mint and adding sugar and vinegar and letting it sit for some time to allow the mint leaves to soften and for the flavors to marry. Then we started to add more sugar as sugar became cheaper and our tastes changed. Then pectin was introduced as thickener. This became the consistency of jelly or jam. Thus…today we have mint jelly.

Here are some tips when cooking lamb

Seasoning: Keep it simple. Lamb has a rich flavor; it is also what I consider a delicate taste. What I mean by delicate taste is that if you season it too much you can easily loose the flavor of the lamb. I am not a real big fan of using a marinade. Marinades are great for adding deep flavor to meats and to help with tenderizing the muscle tissue.

Cooking: Before I get in to the particulars of cooking lamb, let me share a couple of things we need to know when cooking meat in the oven.

  1. You should always preheat the oven. I will preheat my oven 10-15 degrees (this fluctuates by the size and weight of the meat) higher than the desired cooking temperature. Once I add the meat to the oven, I turn it down to the desired cooking temperature. This is because when we add a large roast to the hot oven, it’s like adding ice cubes to hot water—it will lower the cooking temperature. Then the oven has to come up to the correct temp which can affect the darkening of the outside of the meat. By starting at a higher temp and then turning it down, you won’t lose the heat.
  2. Remember there will always be carry-over temperature. As our internal temperature rises, it is building up momentum. What that means is, if your desired internal temp is 140° and you remove it from the oven at that temp, the temp will continue to rise after you pull it from the oven, possibly as much as 10 degrees. Forgetting about this can result in your meat being over-done.
  3. Liquid hates heat. Have you cut into a steak or a piece of chicken and then found a little liquid on your plate? That is the moisture from the inside of your meat. What is happening is the internal natural juices have started to separate from the muscle. It is always important to let any protein sit off the heat (this is called resting) so the juices can come back together with the protein. Allow meat to rest for 3-5 minutes for steak and 10-20 minutes for something that needs carving before serving.
  4. What’s in the seasoning? I try to encourage people when trying something for the first time to consider not using a lot of different seasonings. My thinking is this, meats from different animals taste different. When we first try something we may decide we don’t like it and it could be the seasoning you use or the amount of it. For a simple salt and pepper seasoning I recommend 80% kosher salt (table grind) and 20% ground black pepper.

These are some tips I wish I had known early in my career. I hope they help elevate your cooking of proteins!

Now back to the lamb

The two most popular cuts of lamb served at Easter are:

Boneless leg (the average weight is 4-7 pounds): Because of the removal of the leg bone, this will come netted. This is to keep it together, and in a uniform shape. This will help cook the meat more evenly to the desired temperature. I like to remove the netting, rub with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Do this with both sides. Then, on a preheated outdoor grill, place the lamb with the fat side down for 5 minutes to get a good char and to render down some of the fat. (Note: it may take a little longer) Once there is a good char, pull the leg from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the netting back on and in a preheated oven to 325°, cook the meat to an internal temp of 133°. After resting, this will produce a beautiful medium doneness.

Shoulder Roast (the average weight is 3-4 pounds): This roast will be uniform in shape and is a lot simpler to prepare than the boneless leg. Rub with olive oil and season all sides with salt and pepper. In a preheated Iron skillet, sear all sides until golden brown. Then, in a preheated oven at 325°, cook the meat to an internal temp of 133°. After resting, this will be at a beautiful medium doneness.

Serve with any of your family Easter holiday favorites and enjoy your family and company as we all rejoice that our Savior has risen…He has risen indeed!

I hope that you have enjoyed this WSS Culinary Blog as we celebrate our Lord and share a little of our culinary experience and wisdom with you! If you would like to try the lamb recipes above and don’t want the hassle of cooking and cleaning…we will be serving it here on Easter Sunday. Consider joining us here at White Sulphur Springs for our Resurrection Retreat and celebrate our Risen Savior with us.

Remember: Be a blessing to others and seek the face of God.