Sunday, February 19, 2012

Them Bones, Them Bones, Them…Lamb Bones?

There's something so basic about picking up a bone and giving it a good gnawing. Even in our proper middle-class household growing up, it was de rigeur, expected, even, that you'd pick up the bone from your steak or chicken or pork and chew off all the meaty bits. And if one of my brothers didn't do what I considered a good enough job, I was allowed to pick up their "unfinished" bone and chew on it until it was sufficiently denuded.

Marrow was a different matter, though. Perhaps I didn't inherit enough of my grandmother's Alsatian DNA, but it took till I was well into adulthood to appreciate its salty, warm smoothness spread on a thin slice of lightly toasted baguette.

The last time I bought half a lamb, instead of getting the normal leg steaks, which just haven't thrilled me in the past, I had the butcher give me 2-inch-thick slices that I could use instead of veal in ossobuco. (You can order them the same way from your favorite meat department.) An Italian braised meat dish from Milan, it was traditionally made with cinnamon and bay leaf and garnished with a gremolata of lemon, garlic, anchovies and parsley. More modern versions of ossobuco include tomatoes, carrots and celery.

After braising for around three hours in the oven, the sauce had reduced and the meat was almost falling off the bone. I served it with polenta, but in Italy it's often served with a saffron risotto (called risotto Milanese). Either way would be equally fabulous, but don't forget to spoon the marrow from your bone and either stir it into your polenta or have it with a crusty piece of bread.

And if someone at the table leaves their marrow untouched? You have my permission to grab the bone off their plate for yourself. After all, waste not, want not!

Lamb Osso Buco

3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 lbs. lamb leg steaks, cut 2" thick
1 onion, chopped fine
4 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 carrots, chopped in 1/4" dice
3 ribs celery, chopped in 1/4" dice
2 c. dry red wine
1 c. chicken stock
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325°.

Generously sprinkle the lamb steaks with salt and pepper on all sides. Place large Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil. When it shimmers, add lamb pieces to the pot and sear on all sides until well-browned. If the pan isn't large enough to do them all at once without crowding, sear in batches. When sufficiently browned, remove to plate. Reduce heat to medium and add onion and garlic to oil remaining in pot. Sauté till translucent, then add carrots and celery and sauté till tender. Add wine and stock, stirring in the tomato paste. Add lamb back into pot and bury herb sprigs between the steaks. Cover and place in oven for 2-3 hours, turning the steaks about halfway through, until the meat is ready to fall off the bone and the stock has reduced. If the pot gets too dry, add water or more chicken stock to moisten. Serve over saffron risotto or polenta. Garnish with gremolata if desired (one version here).

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