One of the ways we're trying to save money is by using cuts of meat that are a little off the beaten path. Everyone can cook steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops and lamb chops. But try to find information on lesser known cuts of meat, like lamb ribs and you'll find a lot less information out there. Lamb is one of the few types of meat that I feel comfortable buying in the grocery store. Americans eat less than a pound a year of lamb so there's very little incentive for commercial producers to up production using things like CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). Granted, I still like to buy as much as I can locally so I stay on the lookout for inexpensive cuts like lamb ribs from places like Laurel Creek Farms but if I see a good buy on lamb at the supermarket, I'll pick it up. A lot of these cuts of meat benefit from cooking a long time over very low heat with some liquid in the pan. This takes a normally very tough cut of meat and makes it so tender it almost falls off the bone.
One of my favorite blogs is Farmgirl Fare. Susan lives on a 240 acre farm in Missouri. She's a baker so you can find all kinds of amazing bread recipes on her site. She and her husband also raise sheep so out of necessity, she's got several yummy sounding lamb recipes. The one I tried today was Susan's Slow Cooked Dutch Oven Lamb Shanks. I made a few adjustments but stayed fairly close to the recipe.
Susan's Slow Cooked Dutch Oven Lamb
1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
3 yellow onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1.5 pounds lamb shanks
1 cup red wine (I used Shiraz)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
6 medium frozen tomatoes - chopped up
salt & pepper
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and and pepper and then brown on all sides (in batches if necessary), using tongs to turn the pieces. Remove lamb and set aside.
Add onions to Dutch oven and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Make a well in the center of the onions and add the garlic. Cook, stirring so that all the garlic touches the bottom of the pot, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix garlic with onions. Stir in 1/2 cup of the wine, bring to a boil and stir up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Stir in the rosemary and parsley. Move onions to the side and set the lamb roasts on the bottom of the pot. Cover the meat with some of the onions. Scatter the frozen tomatoes over the meat and pour on the remaining 1/2 cup of red wine. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Put on the lid and set the pot in the oven. Cook for 2-1/2 to 3 hours (or longer), stirring everything around after the first and second hours. If the meat hasn't already fallen off the bone, it should easily come away with a fork. Mix everything together and serve with mashed potatoe, egg noodles or fresh bread.
I served mine with egg noodles. This was fabulous. Lamb has to be one of the best smelling meats you can cook and when you add the onions, garlic and wine.... well, just get ready to be driven out of your mind with hunger. I would make a few changes to it though. I would add more rosemary and parsley - in fact, I might rub the shanks down with extra rosemary, sea salt and pepper the day before I cooked them, just to give them more flavor. I would also add even more tomatoes and onions. Lamb fat is a beautiful thing and it flavors food in an amazing way. Adding more vegetables would stretch the number of servings as well, making it even less expensive per serving. I also would make this the day before I wanted to serve it. I would cook it longer in order to render out as much fat as possible. I would try cooking it longer too. Make sure you strain out the juices and let them sit in a fat strainer for a brief period of time. This reduces the greasiness of the dish quite a bit.
This was so good it's going into regular rotation on our dinner menu. It's easy, I can already tell you that leftovers will hold well and it tastes great.