Friday, October 8, 2010

A DINNER TO DIE FOR (Literally) and My Answer to the $40 Lamb Chop by Cleo Coyle

Mention "lamb" to any crime writer and you will likely hear about one of the most memorable culinary mystery plotlines in popular culture: "Lamb to the Slaughter," an episode of the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show, one that's been mentioned on this blog a time or two.

Cleo Coyle, who never murdered
(with a leg of lamb), is author
of The Coffeehouse Mysteries.

The murderess of the story is Mary Maloney, a (seemingly) docile housewife completely in love with her police officer husband. As the story opens, he comes home from work with a grim disposition and very bad news: He's leaving her.

Mary is devastated. In a zombie-like homemaker haze, she continues about her business, going to the deep freezer to fetch a frozen leg of lamb for dinner. Mary then carries the club-shaped meat to the kitchen, walks up behind her husband, and introduces the back of his head to nine pounds of uncooked meat.

By the time detectives show, Mary has hidden the murder weapon (in her pre-heated oven). Hours later, the policemen at the scene appear tired and hungry. Ever the gracious homemaker, Mary offers them dinner and voila the evidence disappears--into the stomachs of the investigating officers.

Literary roots:
"Lamb to the Slaughter" was based
on a short story by the acclaimed
author of children's books Roald Dahl.
To learn more, including
where to read it, click here.

And now for this week's recipe...

French Pressed:
A Coffeehouse Mystery
Click here or on book cover
to learn more.
A few years ago, while researching the culinary elements in French Pressed, I attended a public event at New York's 92nd Street Y.

An esteemed panel had gathered to discuss New York City's restaurant scene. Among the members were Chef Jacques Pepin and legendary food writer Gael Greene.

One of the evening's discussion topics was "the forty dollar lamb chop," a half-joking example of the very high cost of operating a restaurant in NYC. How high?

According to the panel, it takes roughly $6 million to get a 200-seat restaurant off the ground in midtown Manhattan; and to maintain it, $500 to $800 per square foot, per month, just for rent.

Such high costs are, of course, passed on to the customer, which is why you see menus with a $40.00 lamb chop.

My husband and I write for a living, which is to say, there's no way in hell we can afford said chop on a regular basis, unless...we cook it ourselves!

And, so, today I am delighted to share with you...our amazing $3.00 Lamb Chop, just as good (if not better) than a midtown Manhattan chop, but with a savings of $37.00. (Unfortunately, you have to mix your own martini.)

Bottom line: We purchased the succulent rack of Australian lamb (you see in these photos) at Costco for about $20.00.

If you're a Costco member, keep your eyes open for these beauties because they are truly delicious and very easy to prepare. They're also quite nutritious. Australian lamb provides 2 times more iron than chicken or pork and 6 times more than fish. It's packed with B12 yet lower in cholesterol than other animal proteins. More info at this site.

If you're not a member of Costco, visit your local butcher or check out these other US retailers, listed state by state. Click here for the list.

Cleo Coyle’s
Absolute Favorite $3.00 lamb chop...

Rack of Lamb
with Lemon
and Rosemary

To save this recipe in an easy PDF form that you can print or share, click here. 


1-1/2 to 2 pound rack of lamb (We buy ours at Costco for about $20.00)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 fresh lemons
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper


For a state-by-state list of US retailers who sell Australian lamb, click here.

Step 1: Prep meat and lemons - First allow the meat to reach room temperature, about 15-30 minutes outside of the refrigerator before cooking. (Placing cold meat into a hot oven will shock the tissue and make the meat tough instead of tender.) If your lemons were in the refrigerator, take them out and warm them to room temperature, as well.

Step 2: Prep pan - Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly coat the top rack of a broiler pan (or grill of a roasting pan) with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Unwrap the rack of lamb, gently rinse, pat dry, and place the meat fat side up on the greased rack.

Step 3: Mix flavor paste - Juice 1 and 1/2 of the room temperature lemons. (Again, you don’t want the juice to be cold or you’ll risk shocking the meat). Make a paste by mixing it with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and all the garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Step 4: Treat meat to an aromatic massage - Rub the paste all over the meat (both sides) and place on top rack of broiler pan, fat side up. Roast lamb in the center of oven for 70 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the roast. You want the thickest part of the meat to reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F.

Step 5: Allow juices to re-collect - If you cut the meat right away, the juices will run right out and your meat will taste dry instead of succulent. So allow the lamb to stand for 10 to 15 minutes and the juices to re-collect.

Step 6: Finish with fresh lemon - Meanwhile, juice the remaining 1 and 1/2 lemons. When meat has finished resting, spoon the fresh lemon juice over the meat; then slice, plate, and...


Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or 
learn about my books, including
my bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.


  1. I remember this brilliant episode of Alfred Hitchcock, thinking it was a great idea of getting rid of the murder weapon.

    The lamb chop looks good.

  2. I *am* a Costco member! I'll look out for these at the's actually on my list of places to go today. I can practically taste the lamb from the picture...looks fantastic!

  3. Love Hitchcock. Love aromatic massage. Great post..

  4. I read the short story in a high school lit class and loved it. I can't wait to wait the video!

  5. I love lamb, but my husband grew up in the beef-eating midwest and can't stand the stuff, so I have to indulge when he's out of town (hmm, could I eat an entire rack of lamb?).

    BTW, I love your PDF format recipes--there's one on my fridge right now.

  6. Wow!!! I have been searching for a classic lamb recipe to fix on Saturday and here it is! Thank you

  7. Roast lamb is one of my favorites, but the prices around here have knocked it off the menu at my house. Your recipe is lovely and the photos have me drooling, Cleo.

    ~ Krista
    eating chicken

  8. Replies to...

    @Dru – Wasn’t that a fiendishly clever way to dispose of the evidence? And what if the police solved this mystery after the line, “It could be right under our noses…” Wouldn’t retrieving the evidence resemble a zombie movie? (Kidding.) And yes, the lamb chop was amazing. :)

    @Elizabeth – Don’t you love Costco?! So many hard-to-pass-by bulk food bargains. I have to tell you – when we made this lamb (earlier this week), we served it with a side casserole of Southwestern corn, inspired by your wonderful Southern sides —but more about that on another post!

    @A Year on the Grill (Dave) – Oh, that’s funny. Freeze it and it becomes a very small murder weapon, lol! Thanks (as always) for bringing cheer to our Kitchen.

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. @Avery – Aw, thank you. Don’t you wish the Internet could transmit aromas? If we could, I think our blog would become the most popular site on the web.

    @Alicia – Glad to hear it, and I hope you enjoy the show. A funny, little note on the epilogue that Alfred added to the show. Dahl’s original story allows Mary to get away with murder, but the network standards and practices of the time would not allow a character to get away with murder. So Hitchcock had to add a little tale about how Mary was caught when she tried to do in her second husband the same way.

    Those were definitely pre-Dexter days!

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. Replies to…

    @SheilaConnolly - Funny you should say that about your hub. :) I wasn’t much of a lamb eater, either, until I met my husband, who loves it. Now I love it, too. But even Marc won’t touch mutton, which is what he grew up on.

    Thanks very much for your nice words about my PDFs. I’m so proud to be on your fridge, lol. And congrats again on the launch of your new Museum Mystery series with the first entry: FUNDRAISING THE DEAD. (Such a great title – I think Alfred would agree.)

    @LaraBKnight - Lara, you’re going to love the herbal aroma as much as the lamb itself…Thank you for the nice words, and eat with joy!

    @Krista – Oh, that’s too bad. We love lamb, especially for special occasion dinners. It pairs so well with wine; just throw it together with a salad, crusty bread, simple roasted carrots or potatoes and you've got an easy but elegant meal. It’s also better for the body than steak (many cuts of which are the same in price, or even more, per pound). Making it this way at home is a huge savings for us compared to what a restaurant charges, too, so it’s definitely staying on our menu. :)

    Cheers, everyone, enjoy your Friday,
    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  11. I well remember that episode and the impression it made upon me. I also remember Hitch on a talk show saying he thought the perfect murder weapon just might be an icicle.

  12. I remember that story by Roald Dahl. I read that before I saw that Hitchock episode. I've always wished I'd thought to write about it first!

    Cleo, who but you could make raw lamb look mouth-watering? One glance and I could smell that rich lamb-and-herbs aroma...yum! I like the way you used the whole lemons as backdrop for the finished photo.

    Costco, hm? I wonder if Sam's Club ever gets those racks of lamb? And it's much more fun to make it at home than to go out. Lots more possibilities. :)

  13. We are off to Costco tomorrow so I will definitely be looking for lamb!! I love love love lamb...though my mom is up in Heaven rolling her eyes because when I was little I refused to eat if because I swore I could feel little lamb fuzzies in my mouth...(I was the precocious child!!) Finally ate it at a boyfriend's house because I was mad to impress him and his parents :-) Thanks for a wonderful recipe...lemon is a natural accompaniment to so many things. We also have lots of rosemary left from our garden!!

    As far as Alfred...I distinctly remember laying on the floor just outside our den ( does anyone have a den anymore??) sneaking to watch it without my folks or yucky older brother knowing. Finally I got a big book of his stories for my 12th birthday!!

    You always make Fridays more fun, Cleo!!!

  14. Replies to...

    @Pattie - LOL on the icicle. I wholeheartedly agree. And, of course, as it melts, one's hands are easily cleaned of any blood. Very convenient. :)

    @Laineshots - You are such a sweetie! TY for the food-stylist photography shout-out. Your own photos are awesome so it means a lot to me. As for Sam's Club, I can't answer that question; but I'd keep an eye out in their meat dept. for a trimmed rack. If it's $10.00 a pound or under, I say go for it. :)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  15. Reply to...

    @booklover - so great to "see" you in our Kitchen again. Love the story of pretending to like lamb to impress the boyfriend, and your Alfred memory is priceless, too. As for the rosemary, I can't imagine a better tasting herb than one you've grown yourself. Enjoy the carnival that is Costco, bulk-food paradise. (Especially helpful for Halloween candy buying, too.)

    Have a delicious evening, everyone...
    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  16. Off to renew my membership at Costco....

  17. Nice post and really impressive one to remember. thanks for sharing this post