Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Lamb Lay Down Near Broadway

Most Americans living in urban metropoli can lay claim to living on or near a street named Broadway. I am no exception. I am also old enough to remember when Peter Gabriel sang lead in Genesis, but never mind that. Let's talk lamb.

I defrosted on of my unlabeled bags of lamb Saturday. Yesterday, after the kitchen volunteering stint, I came home to a bag containing an undefined hunk of meat (shoulder? leg?), and, strangely, two little chops. I put the chops back in the freezer and contemplated the roast. Or whatever it was. Hockeyman and I consulted a few cookbooks, running into the inevitable lamb-with-mint recipes. I loathe mint in food. It's right up there with fruit in the main course.

We pulled down Molly Stevens' All About Braising. There Hockeyman lit on Braised Lamb Shanks Provencal. Granted, we didn't have shanks, but we did have nearly everything else.

What the original recipe calls for:
six lamb shanks
flour for dregding
paprika, ditto
salt n' pepper
olive oil
two yellow onions
one pound plum tomatoes or one 14 oz can
four garlic cloves
one cup dry white wine or vermouth
chicken stock
bay leaves
black olives

I don't keep parsley in the house. Bunches wither and blacken before I can use them up. Freezing only creates a sodden mess.

The original recipe takes two days and three pages of exposition. We decided to make it, let it cool, then have it for dinner the next day--i.e.--tonight.

So while H-man chopped one onion, two being beyond his tolerance, I trimmed the meat of all visible fat, washed and dried it, dredged it in flour, paprika, salt, and pepper, and proceeded to brown it in my trusty Le Creuset braiser.

Once the meat was browned, I pulled it out and added the onion, tomato, and garlic to the pot, letting the ingredients, as Fergus Henderson says, get to know each other. Hockeyman took it upon himself to interpret the instructions for the lemons literally. He zested one, then meticulously peeled and sectioned the fruit. He is far more patient with such things than I. His cuts are always neater, his garlic microscopically minced. That's cooking with an engineer for you.

Added the wine. Let it boil down. Added the chicken broth. Let that boil down. Put the meat back into the pot, shook the lemon zest over all, slid it into a 325 degree oven for three hours, at which point I could shred it with a fork. I gave Hockeyman a taste. He said it was good but dry. Having just performed a major brace flossing, I wasn't about to sully my expensive dental work. I let the whole thing cool. Made room in my fridge (Which I must clean. Must. Add to the list of what my father used to call "winter projects."), and waited until today.

After running too many errands, I got home and pulled the meat from the fridge. I did my best to get the layer of congealed fat off the top, added black olives and Hockeyman's lemon wedges, and slid it into the oven to warm.

It was excellent, mild-tasting, lean. A day in the fridge helped redistribute the moisture; the meat wasn't a bit dry. The onions and canned tomato had cooked into a tasty sauce, which H-man picked apart in a fruitless effort to avoid the onion. The roast contained one large bone, which appeared to be a hip/femur. So it was either a small leg of lamb or a shoulder roast. I saved the bone for broth, which I'll use when the bag labeled "stew meat" comes out of the freezer.

Incidentally, Kitty loved it. I think he was a dog in another life.

Stevens, Molly. All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking. New York: Norton, 2004. 407-09.

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