Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting Ready, # 3


We should consider lamb. Below, I have reproduced some correspondence from a man we'll simply call "Sam", out of respect for his anonymity. This "Sam" was my personal chef for almost twenty years, and still cooks an occasional meal for me. He's probably responsible for many of my faults as well, but on balance, his influence has been positive. The recipe, in its entirety, cannot be printed here because many of The Culvert's readers are women and children, but I will reproduce enough of it to allow you to start getting the house ready. That is, you can replace the caulking on the windows.


Spring is the time of year that our thoughts turn to... LAMB!

Although my local store carries some lamb throughout the year, mostly Leg o' Lamb, (not my favorite because I can't eat one all by myself at one sitting), in the spring I find more choices.

Recently the store has been carrying lots of Racks o' Lamb at their usual obscene prices, but I have become savvy enough to note the “Sell by “ dates. I put a Post It note on my kitchen cabinet, and on the day of that date or the day before, they usually reduce the price by about 30 to 40%. That's when I go to buy them and right now I have a Bunch o' Them in my freezer. I love them...all eight ribs at one meal.

For a more leisurely cooking day, I love lamb shanks. I've made them many ways and they are always successful among people who aren't prejudiced by a conviction that lamb is too “gamey”. It's interesting that some of those “lamb is too gamey” people eat venison, but usually only after it is converted to “Venison Summer Sausage”. “Rack o' Venison”, if you can find it, or venison tenderloin butchered well the way "Wayne" does it, tastes like beef and can be fork-tender, when cooked rare. Most other people's “gamey” venison tastes the way it does because they threw it in the back of their pick up truck, drove all over the county on a warm day in the fall to show it off, got drunk, parked the truck in the sun and took a twelve hour nap. After that, the venison isn't “gamey”, it's half rotten.

I digress... back to lamb.

Lamb shanks are yummy, maybe my favorite cut, and the enclosed is my favorite recipe, especially in warmer months. The recipe may appear daunting, but even if it is, every step in the chain is worth the outcome. The cooking time of the lamb, once it gets to the oven, is 4 hours, so there is plenty of time in the meantime to do the other steps.
I advise, even during warm weather, that you keep your home windows closed while this cooks...for two reasons:

1. If you let the smell escape, you are wasting it.

2. If the smell escapes, your down-wind neighbors will be lining up, inviting themselves into your kitchen to demand a "wee taste".

At least one short cut: use canned, well rinsed cannellini beans or great northern beans instead of starting with the dried beans. In Step 4, reduce the cooking time of the beans with the bouquet garni to 30 minutes at a bare simmer, but simmer the garni in the water ahead of time for 15 minutes before adding the beans. Starting from scratch with dried beans is better, but we all have other lives to live. Eg. once the shanks in their pot get to the point where the aroma fills the house, you will want to have sex, and it is a good time for it since you have 3 hours to accomplish it, assuming that you have already done the necessary prep work. Remember “If you have an erection lasting more than 4 hours, seek immediate medical attention.” So plan ahead. That whole issue scares the hell out of me. How long after 4 hours is too late to be “immediate”? If I'm too late to be immediate, what will happen? What constitutes “medical attention”? Will the “Home Health Visiting Nurse Services” qualify? What might she look like? Could that issue complicate (or facilitate) a resolution of the emergency?

Best of luck,



  1. When "the aroma fills the house, you will want to have sex, and it is a good time for it since you have 3 hours to accomplish it, assuming that you have already done the necessary prep work."

    Ha! GREAT post! Now, I'll smile through a rainy workday... :) Thanks!

  2. I think we should all have a Lamb Shank in honor of Sam.

    [Golly, it's a good job none of you understand Cockney Rhyming Slang!]

  3. I think he would be quite touched. Actually, I suppose we would all be quite touched.