Food Talk Friday: Baaa!

My family did not eat lamb when I was growing up. My grandmother never fixed it so my mom didn’t eat it and didn’t know how to prepare it.

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My father-in-law didn’t like mutton and my sister-in-law refused to eat it after raising and butchering a lamb, so my husband considers himself lamb deprived growing up, although he did have it more often than I did. I never ate lamb until I was an adult. I had lamb stew in my early twenties and though it was delicious. But since I didn’t eat it growing up, I followed my mom’s example and skipped all the lamb recipes in my cookbooks.

Stud Muffin does enjoy lamb though and he began roasting a leg of lamb for us on Easter each year and I learned to appreciate it.

A few years ago we had the opportunity to purchase a whole lamb for the freezer and we did it.

That lamb was the best. Everything was delicious. We gave a package of chops to a chef friend and she said it was the best lamb she’d ever eaten.

I agreed. Stud Muffin made lamb shanks one night and I still remember that as one of the best meals of my life. He braised them slowly all day with mire poix (onions, carrots, and celery) and tomato sauce and served it on polenta. It was A. May. Zing.

The next year’s lamb was good and so was the next year’s and so was this year’s. But I’ve finally realized that that first lamb was extraordinary. It must have eaten something shortly before it was butchered that gave the meat an extra dimension of flavor.

I’ve ordered lamb shanks in restaurants. Stud Muffin made lamb shanks again according to the same recipe. But none of them have equaled the shanks from that first lamb.

Lately he’s been cooking other cuts, not just the shanks, by braising. And it’s so good. I think except for the annual Easter leg of lamb, braising is now our preference for lamb.

How he does it:

He sears the chops, or steaks, or shanks.

Then he adds chopped celery, onion, and carrots and some water or white wine or tomato sauce. Then he slow cooks them a couple of hours. Then, depending on how many bones are in the meat, he may go ahead and pull out the bones, or just serve the meat, bones and all. Sometimes on mashed potatoes. Sometimes on polenta. Sometimes on egg noodles. All the renditions are delicious.

Lamb. Who knew?

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