Lamb – It’s the other red meat…

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.

Braised Lamb

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.

5 responses to “Lamb – It’s the other red meat…

  1. We eat a lot of lamb here, too–in part because we like it so much. We cook a lot of Indian food, so it naturally is going to feature in many meals.

    I am always confused by people who don’t care for lamb. To me, it is the loveliest of meats, second only to wonderful venison or elk in flavor.

    But then, I do prefer meats with a lot of flavor to them–I like my beef dry aged (for quite some time, too) so, maybe it is just me.

  2. I’m pretty omnivorous and as I get more experience I understand some of the more traditional attitudes to meat more. Chicken is quick and delicate. Beef oddly I find less interesting but I think that is because it is getting harder to find the interesting cuts that are good quality. Pork is extremely versatile but rises to smoking like nothing else, etc.

    I really really hate the recent attitude to chicken that it is a chicken breast with any kind of sauce that is the ideal. THe breast is the least interesting part of a chicken. My favorite is a heavily roasted chicken wing. So crunchy you can eat most of the bones too. Absolutely loaded with flavor.

    Anyway, second your lamb nomination. I like venison but only very heavily stewed – of course I have only had tough, old, culled venison.

  3. Young doe is fantastic, Owen. Befriend a hunter who goes out in doe season (depending on whether you have that in your state or not–it usually depends on how overpopulated y’all are with deer) and wait for him to take down a young doe.

    The meat is fantastic. Also–a bit of juniper and rosemary along with black pepper helps. Brining helps, too–with maple sugar in the brine, along with the salt.

    I like roasted haunch with a juniper-blackberry sauce. Gah–I am drooling just thinking of it!

    You may like bison–it is preferable to beef in many ways–better for you healthwise, and even with a lack of fat, it has a good flavor. Much more interesting than the usual beef.

    Ostrich is fantastic–but esoteric and expensive. It has the flavor of red meat and the texture of poultry.

    Oh, and rabbit–another favorite that is inexpensive if you have a farmer near you who raises it.

  4. Hey Owen, thanks to you, I bought lamb last night to roast over the weekend! Thanks for the tip!! Alanna

  5. Amen brother. My circle gives me a hard time for not buying fancy fish at 13.00 bones a pound and beef is just way too high. Man, I got a family to feed, I’m NOT going to spend 75 dollars a night to feed these beasts!

    Thank YOU.

    I’m in the midst of finding fresh goat for even less. I like it better than lamb, way better.

    Biggles

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