Kristy Wenz is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover, experimental home cook and avid traveler. She blogs regularly at Eat Play Love, where she and her family explore cuisines and cultures around the globe.
When it comes to common perceptions -- or misperceptions -- of wine, Old World offerings have historically been more highly regarded than New World wines. The Old World has been doing it longer, the growers are more skilled, the grapes come from older vines and the production methods are time-tested.
But within the last several decades, wines of the New World are challenging history and coming into their own, making the difference between Old and New World wines less about quality and more about philosophy. The Old World focuses on viticulture, winemaking and the terroir, while the New World lends more emphasis to science and the individual winemaker’s direction. Philosophies aside, both the Old and New World are producing outstanding wines. Germany and New Zealand, featured in this month’s magazine, are two perfect examples.
As for the World Platter, we can easily match a German Riesling with steamed New Zealand mussels, or even a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a German pork roast, but we’re going to take it one step further this month with fusion. Fusion restaurants abound, but perceptions on exactly what that means can vary. Simply put, fusion cuisine combines elements from two or three different culinary traditions. This month we’ll fuse our Old and New World wine-producing regions of Germany and New Zealand and we’ll do it fast, fresh and, of course, as a perfect accompaniment to wine.
First, we’ll again discuss perceptions. Do meats, starches and gravy-laden dishes come to mind when thinking of traditional German food? Maybe sausages, schnitzel or hasenpfeffer?
As for New Zealand, do you think fresh, local and simple, or do you envision Maori dishes, tracing back to the indigenous people of New Zealand? Or even British-influenced staples like bangers and mash brought over when the Brits heavily populated the island nation in the 19th century?
Both countries have deep and diverse culinary roots, but little crossover. So where do we go from here? Lamb.
Lamb in the Old and New Worlds
New Zealand has the highest density of sheep in the world with nearly 30 million across its two Pacific islands. In fact, sheep outnumber people in New Zealand six to one. And despite the declining numbers in sheep farming over the last few decades, sheep meat and wool remain a large export for the island nation. As much as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has a distinct flavor profile, so too does New Zealand lamb. Unlike American lamb, which is often grain-fed prior to slaughter to mellow the flavor and increase “marbling,” New Zealand lamb is entirely grass-fed, lending to its more “gamey” taste. New Zealand lambs are also smaller, leaner and often more tender than American lamb. Additionally, New Zealand lamb is meat of a lamb under the age of 12 months, unlike mutton, which comes from adult sheep.
Germany also has sheep, but far fewer with an estimated 1.6 million across the country. Sheep farming in Germany has been declining for decades due to rising costs, diminishing resources and decreasing demand. However, lamb remains a traditional dish on many German tables in spring. In many cases, lamb plays significant roles in both Easter and Passover. While eating lamb on Passover is subject to various interpretations, lamb as a general dish in Germany’s springtime can be attributed to the first lambs of the season being available at market.
Fusing Culinary Elements
Now, how do we cook a lamb dish that combines elements of both German and New Zealand culinary traditions, while also keeping it a quick and simple dish to prepare any night of the week? We use lamb chops with a blend of German and New Zealand seasonings. For this recipe we chose a round-bone lamb chop, which requires a shorter amount of cooking time than other cuts. The chops are seasoned liberally using two common German herbs, juniper and thyme. To bring in the New Zealand flair, we use fresh-squeezed orange juice and rosemary.
This dish comes together in under an hour with less than five minutes of hands-on prep and less than 10 minutes of cook time. Simply season the chops with the crushed juniper, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Spritz the orange juice over the chops and set them aside to soak in the flavors for about 30 minutes. To cook, heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the chops only three to four minutes per side, flipping once. After that, the meat rests off the heat for another five to 10 minutes before serving.
We served our lamb chops alongside another New Zealand staple, the sweet potato, or kumara. They were mashed and seasoned with fresh thyme leaves, a perfect pairing with our citrus chops. The meat was juicy, tender and not overly gamey.
The lamb chop washed down beautifully with both a German Pinot Noir and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit flavors of the Pinot naturally complemented the tender, subtle gaminess of the young cut of lamb, while the bright acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc cut through the fatty juiciness of the chop.
If fusion cuisine teaches us anything, it’s to leave perceptions behind and be open to new pairings, flavors and techniques. While Germany and New Zealand don’t share many, if any, culinary roots, the two worlds fused together beautifully in this freshly seasoned, citrus lamb dish. It would make an easy, flavorful weeknight meal paired with either an Old or New World wine, but could also lend itself to a fun evening with friends. Give it a try. Cheers and guten appetit!
Citrus Herbed Lamb Chops
2—8 oz. round-bone lamb chops
1 T dried juniper berries
1 T dried thyme
1/2 T dried rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T olive oil
1 T fresh thyme for garnish
Crush the juniper berries in a mortar. Then season the chops liberally with the juniper, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Rub it into the chops. Slice the orange in half and spritz the chops with orange juice. Toss the chops and oranges into a sealable bag and set aside for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan. Place the chops in the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, flipping once. Remove from heat and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
Serve hot, sprinkled with fresh thyme.