About a year ago I started speaking with a butcher named Jacob Dickson. He sources beef and lamb from small farms and has very high standards for animal welfare and sustainability. Recently, Jacob opened Dickson Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market.The space is beautiful and the meat case full of beautiful pieces of both grass and grain fed meats. Occasionally, Jacob runs out of popular cuts. One of the things I love about shopping there is hearing him offer alternatives to people who came looking for a rib eye steak but are not sure how to cook flank or a small chuck roast.
About a week ago, I went to pick up some lamb chops for a quick dinner party I was hosting for a couple friends of ours. I had already made some potatoes earlier in the day and needed 4 small loin or rib chops. The three customers in front of me all wanted cuts that were not available that day but Jacob had beautiful tri-tip roasts and was eager to help them learn how to work with new cuts. When it was my turn, I asked for four small lamb chops but was then informed that there was little lamb that week and that all that was left was shanks. “Give them around 2 hours and they should be fine,” Jacob said. I knew I did have the time and wasn’t sure what to do. As much as I liked seeing other customers readjust their cooking and eating around what was available that day, I didn’t like it quite as much when it happened to me.
I consider myself a decent to good cook but I still get thrown off when cooking and eating plans have to changed completely. I’m thinking though that that might be an important part of going local. Few of us will be walking out into our gardens to see what’s ripe and then planning our dinner from there. But we may go to the farmers’ market or open a box from a CSA and let our findings guide our next few meals.
In any case, when my guests arrived, we enjoyed a bottle of wine for an hour or so, salad for a bit longer, and then braised lamb shanks. Many of us our in a rush, but a little extra time is a small price to pay for good food that was sourced responsibly.
Braised Lamb Shanks (4 servings)
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven on top of a high burner
When it begins to smoke, salt and pepper 4 lamb shanks and brown in the oil 4 minutes per side
While the lamb is browning, dice up some carrots and onions or whatever veggies you can find. Anywhere from 1-4 cups is fine.
When the lamb is done, transfer it to a plate and brown the veggies for 4 minutes or so.
Deglaze the bottom of the pan with a cup of red wine and some water
You could throw in some balsamic too if you wanted to or even some stock if you had it ready
Place the lamb on top of the vegetables and cover the Dutch oven
Place in oven at 300 degrees and cook for about 2 hours.
Serve with the reduced liquid from the bottom of the pot with some bread on the side.