When I first moved to the midwest and found myself living in a neighborhood where I am surrounded by farms, the idea of “farm to table” became a reality. Prior to this move I lived in a city on the West coast and the closest I came to a farm was the farmers markets that I visited with great regularity. This certainly meets the criteria of farm to table as you are buying direct from the grower but I yearned for even a closer relationship to my food. I decided to make it my mission to buy as much of my food as possible directly from the farm. I wanted to know the food I was consuming was grown with respect for the land and that the animals were humanely treated and fed a diet that was the healthiest possible. We used to say, “you are what you eat” but I think with all that has happened to our nations food production that statement needs to be expanded to “you are what your food eats”. Through farmers market contacts, word of mouth, and personal research I discovered farms in the area that apply best practices in the production of their meat, dairy and produce. It has been gratifying to visit the farms and hear the pride in the voices of the farmers. To them it is not just a business but a commitment that requires a huge effort to insure they meet the highest standards of the industry and supply products that are healthy and sustainable. I applaud them! The effort to buy direct has been extremely gratifying and as a result I eat food that I know for sure is of the highest quality and most healthful available.
Why am I going off on all this? It is all about the lamb. This post did promise a recipe for Braised Lamb w/ Lemon and I won’t disappoint. Lamb is something I have bought directly from a local farmer for several years now. Their kids raise them for 4-H with the hopes of selling them after they are shown at the county fair. The farm is small and each animal is treated respectfully. The “proof is in the pudding” as they say and I will say this meat is tender and delicious. If you have had lamb in the past and thought it too gamey for your taste, you may have had an older sheep or mutton. Young lamb is flavorful and tender with no hint of gaminess. Still not convinced? You can substitute beef for this recipe if you must.
The recipe is as follows.
2lbs leg of lamb, cut into bite sized pieces
2T Extra-virgin olive oil
3 anchovy fillets (I know, but they melt into the oil and you won’t even know they are there. They impart a wonderful depth of flavor)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin
6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Zest of one lemon
2-3 c chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 or 1 lemon, depending on size and taste
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Heat oil in a heavy skillet or dutch oven. Add the anchovy fillets and stir until they dissolve into the oil.
- Dry and season the meat (remember the anchovies are salty). Brown in oil in batches.
- Remove the meat from the pan and add the onion. Cook until soft.
- Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with 2c chicken stock.
- Return the meat to the pan and add the rosemary and lemon zest.
- Cover and place in oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, checking midway, adding more stock if necessary.
- When meat is tender, remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.
- Continue to cook on low until sauce is thick and dark brown. Add a little more stock or some water if necessary.
- Taste for seasoning, add lemon juice, taste again and adjust as needed.
I made this with baby potatoes that I halved and cooked cut side down with the meat on top of the stove for 30 minutes or until fork tender. You could also add them while in the oven if you wish.
I developed this recipe one day when I was thinking a Mediterranean preparation would hit the spot. The lemon makes it bright and the anchovy gives it a richness. I urge you not to leave them out. The combination is wonderful! If you like a little more acidity, add more lemon to taste. As a side, I served the pickled vegetables I wrote about a couple of days ago. The acidity of the veggies works perfect with the richnes of the lamb.
I finish this post with the hopes you will give additional thought to your “farm to table” practices, and also hope you will try lamb if you have not already. I think this preparation is especially scrumptious. What is your story?