Until recently I’d never eaten lamb. When I was a child my great uncle raised sheep, he and my great aunt even had one they let in the house like a dog. Her name was Rhody. I always pictured lamb as the tiny, cute babies that were pictured in children’s books and also that there was something called mutton that was greasy and eaten in the middle ages.
Since culinary school I’ve realized there is a lot more to meat than I ever knew before. Lamb is an animal that is less than a year, sometimes as young as 6 months old. Mutton is an adult sheep, and for most people less palatable as it has a stronger taste. There are times when very young lambs are eaten, but tends to be a tradition that stems from having more animals that a farmer can feed and as such is, in an odd way, a bit of a kindness to everyone.
Our modern ways of eating, especially meat, has certainly skewed our view food. Veal is a great example of this bizarre turn of events. In the past, veal was eaten as a means of utilizing extra animals, but as the demand (and the ability to procure resources to make that demand) increased our food system became more industrialized and more removed form the natural cycle of life. Calves are now placed in very restrictive environments to produce veal in a way that turns my stomach. And poultry, well there’s an area that could be talked about for days…
Being a student of butchery, I am fond of all sorts of meat. Being a human on a planet in an ecological crisis, I like to be thoughtful about my meat sources. I’m lucky enough to get beautiful, grass-fed beef from my family, but I often find myself wondering what other meats to serve my family. Pork is a challenge, it is a very versatile animal, but most commercially grown pigs come from less than ideal environments. Once I find a good source for rabbits I’ll be adding those into our diet more often too as they are a great alternative to chicken, so for now we’ll enjoy our lamb.
- 2# lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into rough 1-2″ pieces
- 1T salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp sumac
- 2 T flour
- 2 T oil
- 1/2 c water
- 1 c red wine
- 3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 onion, julienned
- carrot, cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig thyme
- preheat oven to 275 degrees F
- season meat with salt, pepper, and sumac, dust with flour
- heat an oven proof pan over high heat, add oil, heat until shimmery
- add a small about of meat to pan, browning on all sides (if you add too much meat will turn gray instead of caramelizing)
- continue browning all of the meat, setting aside each batch as you go
- deglaze the pan with a couple tablespoons of water (this brings up the fond, or all the yummy brown bits on the bottom)
- allow water to mostly evaporate, repeat three more times
- add wine and simmer until the alcohol smells dissipates
- add onion and a pinch of salt, sauteeing for 3-5 minutes
- add carrots and repeat
- add meat, cover and place in oven for 3 hours
Serve with preserved lemon rice pilaf and some greens, rapini would be lovely, oh and have a glass of wine to go with it.