It’s nutrient-dense, easy to prepare, and has just enough funk to make sure we know we’re eating something really special.
But lamb gets a bad rap. It’s seen as a fancy, holiday meal. Something expensive and out of reach for everyday eats. There’s also the cute-food-factor. Just like rabbit and duck, it can seem mean to eat something so damn adorable. Those dirty lies keep it off our week-day table and it’s a damn shame. Not only can lamb be affordable (if you know the cuts to get)– it’s also one of the kindest meats to eat, even when you buy it on the cheap.
Even the lowest-rent, commercially raised lamb you’ll find in the store gets a happier life than your average “Step 1” Whole Foods $8/lb chicken.
For starts: they’re almost universally pasture raised because lambs, unlike pork or cows, don’t take up much space and are pretty easy going dudes. That means farmers (even the big guys) have less micromanaging to do, and can generally let them chill out in the sun, munching on grass.
Since they (usually) aren’t being fed a heavily supplemented diet (e.g. giant troughs of waste grains, that ruminants can’t digest well), they’re naturally “grass fed”– which means more omega-3s and other nutrients for us, when it’s time for dinner.
To get the best bang for your buck– skip the chops and crown roasts, and roll with ground lamb, riblets, and shanks. Ground lamb and shanks will usually around $8/lb– which isn’t, like, free. But. It’s about the same as a quasi-humane-boneless-skinless chicken breast.
Riblets, on the other hand, are an off-cut that come from the area just north of the ₣an¢y-a$$ roasts. They’re delicious, especially braised, and are universally less than $5/lb. Even at Whole Foods. Even in a big city, where grocery costs are off the roof. The only downside: they’re kinda ugly. Weird bits of bone sticking here and there. But who cares. Ask your butcher (nicely) to clean them up, or slice into individual ribs, if it bugs you. Oooorrr. Embrace the imperfection and dig the fuck in!
A quick word on ramps.
Absurdly so. But they’re really hard to find them this late in the season, and it’s even harder to find them sustainably sourced. Since it’s not easy to commercially grow ramps, any of these stinky green weeds you see at the store are probably locally foraged. And that’s super cool– so long as people aren’t being dicks about it and over-picking. When you over-pick, the ramps (or like any plant, duh) don’t grow back the next season. When they don’t grow back next season, they start disappearing, and, some day, cease to exist as a culinary option. The really bad news: basically everyone selling ramps commercially is over-picking and getting close to ruining it for everyone. So.
Get them from the farmers market or in your CSA, use them sparingly, and enjoy the shit out of them.
If you can’t get ahold of responsible ramps: go with garlic scapes. They’re cheaper, taste basically the same, are essentially a waste product for anyone growin garlic– and they have a much longer growing season (so you’ll have better odds of finding them).
- 3-4 lbs Lamb Riblets
- 1 bottle dry Red Wine-- whatever you wanna drink. We used a Petit Syrah that was hella on sale.
- 1 Onion, peeled and chopped into quarters
- 8 cloves Garlic, peeled and whole
- 6 dried Apricots
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Salt and Black Pepper
- 3 tbsp Honey
- Trim any excess fat from the riblets-- or (nicely) ask your butcher to do it for you.
- Season with salt and pepper on both sides, and sear quickly in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pan (like a dutch oven or just a massive skillet) until barely browned.
- Transfer to your crockpot, set on medium heat, and add all remaining ingredients except for the honey. (You can do this in your dutch oven, too, in the oven at 350° for 2 hours, instead-- but it's fucking summer and like. why.)
- Let the ribs hang out in the crockpot until extremely tender, on the verge of falling apart. Usually about 4 hours, but you really can go over-night.
- Remove the lamb, and stick it in the fridge for a minute on a plate. Letting it meat cool slightly will give you a better chance of tidier plating.
- Reserve 1 cup of braising liquid-- not the fat (there will be a lot of fat) or any of the solids, but just the deeply plummy reduced red wine. Add the honey and reduce further, to a syrupy consistency.
- Preheat your broiler to high, and place the lamb on a foil-lined sheet. Brush with the honeyd, reduced braising liquid, and broil until the surface of the lamb gets deeply browned and bubbly.
- Serve with Ramp (or Garlic Scape) Salsa Verde (below)
- 1lb Ramps or Garlic Scapes, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp Champagne Vinegar
- a large handful of fresh Parsley
- 2 tbsp Capers, drained
- 3 Anchovies, the kind from a jar-- you can leave these out if you're squeamish but, like, you really should just nut up and deal because these make the fucking dish. if you absolutely must sub: add a ½ tsp miso paste and accept the fact your life is going to be a little bit less spectacular until you can handle anchovies.
- 8 (yes. 8.) tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt, Black Pepper, and Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
- If you're using garlic scapes, quickly roast them over an open flame, like you would a red pepper, until very lightly charred on one side (about 30 seconds).
- Combine everything except for the olive oil, salt and pepper, in your food processor. Bzz it up until it's chunky but spoonable-- like a really "rustic" pesto.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, stirl in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper(s).