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Chef John Critchley Crowned National Lamb Jam Master

DENVER, Oct. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Last weekend, after a head-to-head (and hoof-to-hoof) cook-off at Sunset Magazine's Savor the Central Coast event, Chef John Critchley of Washington D.C.'s Urbana emerged victorious as the 2012 National Lamb Jam Master.

This event is the culmination of a year of regional contests that pitted chef against chef in Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C. The four regional Lamb Jam Masters – chef Brian Alberg of Boston's The Red Lion Inn, chef Vernon Morales of San Francisco's Town Hall and Salt House, chef Alex Paguaga of Seattle's Portals at Suncadia Lodge, and chef Critchley – convened in San Luis Obispo for one final baaaa-ttle to crown the national winner. Each competitor prepared a lamb-tastic dish, but Critchley's Lamb Leg Pupusa with Queso Blanco and Lamb Tongue Curtido took home the prize after winning the hearts of six judges, including Ted Allen of Food Network's Chopped, food editor Margo True of Sunset Magazine, food and wine writer Kathy Marks Hardesty of The New Times, executive editor Sandra Duerr of the Chicago Tribune, Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining and Laura McIntosh of the Bringing it Home TV show. Boston's chef Alberg was crowned the Peoples' Choice Lamb Jam Master based on a pre-contest poll of fans of lamb.

Chef Critchley's winning recipe:

Lamb Pupusas (makes 24 pupusas)

1/2 cup dried oregano
2 tablespoons Ras el Hanout, ground
4 tablespoons Guallijo chilies, ground
2 tablespoons Passilla chilies, ground
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bone-in leg of American Lamb
3 cups lamb stock
2 cups queso blanco, shredded
1 cup queso cotija, grated
Salt and pepper, as needed
1 bag maseca
1 pound lard
Warm water, as needed

Combine oregano, Ras el Hanout and ground chilies. Rub lamb with oil and spices. Line a deep roasting pan with foil; add lamb. Slowly roast lamb at 300°F until it begins to fall apart, about 3 hours. Add lamb stock; cover with foil and braise for 2 hours more until lamb is tender and falls off the bone.

Let cool to room temperature; pull lamb apart, incorporating it into drippings. Transfer all to a mixing bowl; add cheese and remainder of drippings. Season with salt and pepper.

In a stand mixer bowl, mix maseca flour with paddle attachment. Add lard and 2 cups of water to start. Keep mixing, adding water until it becomes a paste that is loose but not sticky to touch. Let dough rest.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Scoop a golf ball-size piece of dough and flatten it out with your hand. Scoop an equal-size ball of meat mixture; place in middle of flattened dough. Fold dough around meat, shaping into a flat disk. Add lard to pan; saute each pupusa for 3 minutes per side, or until crispy and golden brown.

The 2013 round of regional Lamb Jam contests kicks off this month in Portland. Boston chefs will compete in February of 2013; Washington, D.C. battles in May of 2013 and San Francisco goes lamb-to-lamb in July of 2013.

Fresh American Lamb is available year round at local markets and grocery stores.

For more information about the American Lamb Board's Lamb Jam Tour and additional activities and contests visit fansoflamb.com, become a fan on Facebook or follow @FANofLAMB on Twitter.

About the American Lamb Board

The American Lamb Board is an industry-funded research and promotions commodity board that represents all sectors of the American Lamb industry including producers, feeders, seed stock producers and processors. The Board, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, is focused on increasing demand by promoting the freshness, flavor, nutritional benefits, and culinary versatility of American Lamb. The work of the American Lamb Board is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the board's programs are supported and implemented by the staff in Denver, Colorado.

For more information about the American Lamb Board, please contact Laura Shunk at Baltz & Company at LShunk@baltzco.com or 212.982.8300 x 129.

SOURCE American Lamb Board