Lamb Eaters, Read On

Posted on March 5, 2012

About halfway through February I received this message from Middle Earth Farm, home of our 2012 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share:

We would like to announce that we have returned to our original farming enterprise of raising sheep.  A flock of Horned Dorsets have joined the ranks.  While beets, salad greens and tomatoes may not be available right now, lamb meat is.

Here is the info if you would like to partake of the winter time bounty.

If you eat meat, if you care about eating meat from animals that are treated well, there are many very good reasons to choose to make your purchases at small local farms. You can identify and support farmers who

  • use sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices
  • raise antibiotic- and hormone-free animals
  • allow animals to roam and eat grass rather than factory-farmed grain
  • treat the animals just as humanely and with respect at the end of their lives
  • value the symbiotic relationship between farmer, animal, and consumer

An added benefit? Meat tastes better when raised with these principles. It just does.

Local meat may be more expensive than factory-farmed, but not outrageously so. Remember what you support when you pay $8 per pound instead of something like $7 per pound: excellence, sustainability, health, community. And remember you can keep costs level with what you might spend in a grocery store just by eating less meat. Consume less meat but of better quality and everyone wins: your farmers, your local economy, the environment, the animals, and you.

A day or two after I got the email from the farm, I called farmer Richard Rosenburg and placed my order from the selection of lamb ribs, stew meat, leg roast and shoulder chops. I was able to pick up the meat the same day direct from Rosenburg’s antique salt box home set on the rural acreage at the outskirts of town. The day was unseasonably mild and Richard was already in the field removing stones by hand as he prepared the land for planting. He took a break to sell me a leg of lamb and a package of shoulder chops, perfect for braising. The leg of lamb is now in the freezer for Easter dinner. But the chops made an excellent Sunday supper this weekend, prepared Provençal-style with tomatoes, potatoes, black olives, and lots and lots of garlic. The lamb was delicately flavored – sweet – tender from its stress-free raising, and lean. It tasted the way lamb should.

Two bone-in chops, 1-1/4 pounds total ($11), fed three grown people with one serving left over, and there were plenty of vegetables to go around. No one left the table hungry.

Lamb Shoulder Chops Provençal (serves 2-4, depending on appetite and occasion)

  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lamb shoulder chops, about 1 1/4 pounds total
  • salt, pepper
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
  • 1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes (or an equal amount fresh, chopped in season)
  • 1 1/2 pounds small yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced thin
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, either kalamata or oil-cured

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the diced tomatoes to the bottom of a ceramic baking dish about 13″ by 9″ in size. Scatter the chopped potatoes over the tomatoes. Set the dish aside.

Place a heavy large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat. Add the garlic slivers and saute while stirring until golden, about a minute. Remove the garlic from the oil and set aside.

Sprinkle the lamb chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Add these to the pan and sear until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the still hot skillet add the onions along with the bay leaf.  Salt and pepper lightly.  Stir to caramelize the onions.  When golden, add the wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom.  Add to the thyme and let the mixture simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Off the heat, add the garlic and the olives to the pan and stir to combine.

Nestle the 2 chops on top of the tomatoes and potatoes in the baking dish. Add any meat juices that have collected on the plate to the baking dish. Pour the onion-wine-olive-herb mixture over the top of the meat and vegetables.

Place the casserole in the preheated oven and bake for about 1 3/4 hours. At a couple of points in the baking, baste the casserole with the pan juices.

Serve a chop or slices from the chops on a plate with a generous portion of the vegetables.

©2012  Jane A. Ward