Llama Llama?

By Nirit Yadin
The  title is dedicated to the few who know some Hebrew. Llama means “why” and therefore, “llama llama?” means Why Llama?…Ok, let’s move on.)

I got llama steaks at the Slow Food Central New Jersey Winter Farmers Market. I met Pat Tanner who said that the guy from WoodsEdge Farms is selling llama meat alongside his alpaca sweaters. So I went and there it was, a blue cooler filled with llama meat.

I got steaks.  They were dark Burgundy with very little fat veins and a peculiarly delicate bone in the middle.  I asked Chef Chris Albrecht to cook them, just to be on the safe side.

Chris seared the steaks on both sides, and cooked to a perfect medium-rare while basting  with some herbed butter. The result was delicious: flavorful but fairly mild, the texture just firm enough to enjoy a good chewing.

If you run into llama meat (they are available from WoodsEdge Farms) try this recipe. You can also enjoy Pat Tanner’s suggestions.

Llama Steaks

1-2 llama steaks (if frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge and in any case let them sit at room temperature 45 minutes to an hour before cooking)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoon butter for basting, if you have herbed butter, better yet.
You will need a heavy pan that can fit the steaks while leaving about an inch of space between them, or – if cooking only one steak – between the steak and the pan edge.

Wipe the steak dry with paper towels, rub with some olive oil.
Set a heavy-bottomed pan on top of the stove over high heat. Heat the pan on high heat until it just smokes, then sizzle in some olive oil. Sprinkle one side of the steaks with salt and grind some pepper.

Add your steaks to the pan, seasoned side down. Salt and pepper the upper side. Leave the heat on high. Cook like this for about 3 minutes, without touching them. (The more you move them around, the more you’ll inhibit a nice crust from forming.)

Reduce the heat  to medium-low and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add about a tablespoon of the butter to the pan. When the butter melts, scape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and drizzle the butter on the steaks. Remove the steak from the pan and crank the flame up to high again. Return the steak to the pan, uncooked side down and repeat the process.

Remove the steaks from the pan and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.