We eat a lot of lamb at our house. Partly because it is so very very good. And partly because it is now cheaper than beef (if you don’t buy meat at major chain supermarkets). We do most of our shopping from two sources. The CSA box from Terra Firma Farms arrives weekly loaded with fruit and vegetable goodness. Then we get just about everything else at Trader Joe’s. At the moment, butterflied leg of lamb at the Trader is $4.79 per pound. The cheapest beef cut there is kosher stew meat at $5.49. They do have several forms of ground beef for less (including a wonderful grass-fed ground angus beef that is very good) but ground isn’t really the same.
Lowest price pork is a pork loin roast that comes in at the same price ($4.79). Now that is for Nieman Ranch pork which is top notch, but all the same…
Chicken is of course noticeably cheaper, but man cannot live by organic chicken alone – well he can and for that matter he doesn’t need the lamb either. But having been a vegetarian for over ten years, I am know an unapologetic omnivore.
Anyway, we tend to get three or four cuts of meat per week and then stretch them and/or have some vegetarian meals. This week besides the usual chicken I got a small butterflied leg of lamb and one of those pork roasts. The pork may get mentioned later. For now it is still in the refrigerator. However, temperatures have finally turned here in the Bay Area and although it is still reaching 80 where we are during the day, by evening it is as low as 55 or so! Obviously time for more hearty autumnal fare.
I roasted some delicata squash from my organic box earlier in the day (cut them in half, remove seeds, rub cut-open face in pan of bacon grease from breakfast and sprinkle with a little kosher salt and set in baking tray and then roast for about 80 minutes at 400 degrees).
And then I thought about the lamb. I didn’t really want to do a full on roast and I wasn’t sure how the family would adjust to a stew, especially given that I wouldn’t have time to make polenta to go with it. So I made a braise of sorts.
I made a dredging mixture of a cup of flour, two teaspoons kosher salt, two teaspoons herbs de provence, four teaspoons ground cumin, one teaspoon creole seasoning and then some dried lemon peel and a few shakes of peppery things I had. Then I unrolled the lamb, trimmed off all the fat I could and rubbed the dredge gently onto the surface. Meantime in my pot most similar to a dutch oven I heated two tablespoons of olive oil. I dropped the lamb in and browned it on both sides – about seven minutes per side. I peeled and quartered three onions and dropped them into the edges of the pot while this was going on as well as about half a pound of carrots and five cloves of garlic cut in half.
Then I went out into the garden and grabbed a big sprig of rosemary (essentially a weed her in the Bay Area) and broke it into small sprigs and scattered them around the pot. I preheated the oven to 325 degrees and poured a cup of beer and a cup of chicken stock into the pot with the lamb so that about a third of the meat was covered. Then I covered the pot and stuck it in the oven and left it to cook for three and a half hours (which is quite a lot longer than necessary). I turned the meat over about half way through and it was already soft and falling apart a little. Then for the last hour I turned the oven down to 225 and uncovered the pot. That way the upper surface got a little dried and crunchy.
This was a fantastic lamb – lots of lunch/sandwich leftovers and everyone really liked it. Very easy too despite the long cooking time.