Lamb in Montana and in the Flathead Valley is making a comeback as a growing industry and accessible local meat. The pros at Three Forks Grille claim they are “lucky enough” to use Flathead Valley Hansen Farms’ all-natural lamb products in their recipes. Lamb is generally available year-round but is historically enjoyed in the spring.

In late spring the North Fork Flathead River corridor provides a cornucopia of natural, forageable ingredients that match well with flavors in lamb. Besides the popular morel mushroom hunts, locals here can find fiddlehead ferns, stinging nettles, wild onions and mint hidden along riverbanks and wooded areas. The spring is a good time to learn what these edibles are and where to find them. And when the snow melts, get outside for some foraging!

Here is lamb, three ways, by Three Forks Grille.

Lamb Chops with Morel & Peas

Serves 2

Ingredients for lamb marinade:

8 center cut lamb loin chops (trimmed of fat)
¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil
¹/³ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of each: parsley, rosemary and mint
1 teaspoon of each: fresh black pepper and Kosher salt

Instructions for marinade:

1 Marinate lamb with all ingredients, except salt
2 Preheat grill or cast iron pan
3 Grill meat on medium-to-high heat – 6 minutes on first side and 4 minutes on the other side.
4 Let lamb rest for 5 minutes before serving

Ingredients for morel & pea ragout:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
4 cups of fresh morel mushrooms OR half cup dried and reconstituted mushrooms
2 cups of fresh English peas, snow or snap peas
¹/³ cup Chardonnay
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon of each: mint and parsley

Directions for ragout:

1 Heat a large heavy skillet with olive oil
2 Just as the oil begins to smoke, add morel mushrooms with salt, pepper, mint and parsley
3 Sauté 3 minutes or until morels release their juices
4 Add green onion and garlic, sauté 3 more minutes
5 Add wine and reduce for about 5 minutes
6 Add peas and chicken stock
7 Reduce stock until ragout is slightly thickened
8 Add lemon juice and butter
9 Cook 1 minute

Serve with lamb chops

Braised Lamb Shoulder with Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

Serves 8


1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
6 garlic cloves
½ cup tomato paste
¼ cup chopped parsley
4 tablespoons of Moroccan spice mix (Ras el hanout)
2 bay leaves
½ cup chopped green olives
½ cup preserved lemon, minced
½ cup white wine
6 cups water
4 pounds lamb shoulder steaks (bone in)
3 tablespoons of Kosher salt


1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 Preheat braising pan
3 Brown lamb with spice mixture and salt on both sides
4 Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic and parsley
5 Sauté for five minutes, then add tomato paste
6 Cook an additional five minutes, add wine
7 Reduce wine, add water
8 Bring to a boil, cover and then transfer to the oven
9 Braise lamb in oven for three to three-and-a-half hours – meat should be tender and falling off the bone
10 Remove meat and bones from pan and reserve
11 Skim fat from sauce and vegetables, then puree the mixture
12 Add meat back to sauce
13 Add green olives and preserved lemon

*Serve with cauliflower couscous


Lamb Meatballs

Serves 8


2½ pounds ground lamb
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 tablespoons fresh mint
2 teaspoons Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 eggs
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon of dry Italian seasoning
Oil for frying

Directions for meatballs:

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 Mix all the ingredients except lamb
3 Mix in the lamb
4 Shape into 1 oz. balls
5 Heat oil in a sauté pan
6 Brown meatballs in batches, being careful they don’t stick together
7 Finish meatballs in oven if they aren’t cooked through – should only take about 10 minutes
8 Drain meatballs on a paper towel

Serve with some feta cheese, fresh pomegranate and yogurt sauce