Friday, February 24, 2012

Pastured Leg of Lamb with French Lentils

Is it just me, or is chicken getting a little boring? The only way I really like it these days is roasted whole, in a very hot oven so the skin gets crispy and locks in its relatively meager juices. To be fair, I truly enjoy pulling a whole bird from the oven and sneaking the oysters when no one is looking and I rely heavily on the bones for good stock, but most all other applications are beginning to summon yawns from this direction. Chicken is good if you like to get your protein quota but would possibly like to ignore the fact that you are eating meat. Let's be honest here- it's the blank-slate white meat, cloaking itself in whatever flavor you pair it with. Lamb on the other hand, couldn't be more opposite. It's flavor demands attention. Never would you eat a dish containing lamb and overlook it. Lamb makes its presence known, and this I like. It has a way of making an ordinary day of cooking seem exotic; its earthy aromatics transporting me to a far off place. The Mediterranean perhaps?
Lamb is special, maybe because it is not yet over played, or maybe because it is for real carnivores. What's wrong with a little exclusivity? I enjoy thinking I am not just like 90% of all other American households when dinner time rolls around.
Another plus? Lamb meat is very good for you. Other than its benefits as a protein source, pastured lamb is high in iron, omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and zinc, as well as a whole host of other important trace minerals.
Unhurriedly surrendering itself to fall-off-the-bone tenderness, this slow cooked leg of lamb served with french lentils was easily the highlight of my week. I must take a moment to thank the folks at East Fork Farm for yet another memorable meal. Yes, yes, it is good to be alive!

Pastured Leg of Lamb with French Lentils: (serves 4)
*1 pastured leg of lamb
*1 large onion, chopped
*2 cups french lentils (soaked in water with a splash of vinegar overnight)
*2 tablespoons butter
*2 carrots, chopped
*2 celery ribs, chopped
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*sea salt
*fresh ground black pepper

Rinse leg of lamb and place in a crock pot or cookware fitted with a lid. Cover lamb with water. Add half of the chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper. Bring liquid to a boil then reduce setting to a simmer (if slow cooking on the stovetop in alternative cookware, reduce heat to lowest setting). Slow cook all day (at least 6 hours or longer). Extinguish heat and start on the lentils.

Drain lentils from soaking liquid and rinse. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until onions are translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Skim fat from the top of the lamb cooking liquid. Ladle aproxametly 5 cups of the cooking liquid into the saucepan. Add the lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Serve with lamb.

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