Sunday, October 10, 2010

Impromptu Braised Lamb Shanks

Earlier this year for our Eating Babies meal we bought a whole lamb from SuDan Farms and split it with some friends. The thing about buying a whole (or half) animal is that you have some great ideas for the first couple meals, and then the rest of the animal sits in the freeze for a long time until you tell yourself "I have to finish using that damn sheep" and if you tell yourself this enough times you eventually get around digging through the freeze and pulling something out.

I pulled out shanks.
For those of you that don't know, the shank is the bottom part of the front legs of the sheep.  It's like a drum stick.  Or the forearms.  (Fore shank in the diagram). 

Now I have never cooked shanks before.  I think I've only eaten them a couple times in a restaraunt. The shank is a tendon-y piece of meat and every recipe I've seen calls for slow cooking.  

My wife found a really nice recipe on, but we didn't have all the ingredients, so I improvised.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Herbs
Lamb Shanks from SuDan Farms
Onions from Pumpkin Patch Farm
Garlic from Pumpkin Patch Farm
Olive Oil from Belle Ragazze 
Thyme and Marjoram from my garden
Gnarly Head Cab from California
Organic Beef Stock from Fred Meyers

Because this was impromptu, we pulled together some other random stuff we had in the house, none of which was particularly local.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes from Fred Meyers
Butter from Noris Dairy
Milk from Noris Dairy

Cauliflower Soup (frozen in the freezer.  I think someone gave us this.)

And that was random Sunday dinner.

Local Is Hard
This is not a particularly local meal, and it certainly wasn't planned (unlike the other meals I'd posted about).  But what I'm finding is that it really isn't that easy to cook local food all the time.  Imported stuff creeps in all over the place, and it's almost impossible to stop it.  

Even with the best farmers markets in the country, local markets and co-ops that are open every day of the week, and farms that are just 30 minutes out of town, it's still a struggle to eat 100% local. Why is that?  I think I know the answer.

Toilet paper is not local.

You go to the store for some butt wipe and while you're there you remember that you also need some broccoli and the apples look good and how about some bread for lunches this week and might as well pick up some onions while you're at it...etc., etc., etc.

Pretty soon you've conveniently done all your grocery shopping and making an extra trip to the market seems like a huge pain in the ass, so you don't do it.  And you don't eat local.  We don't at least.  

End of confession.

The Local Plan is Born
What to do about it?  Well, here is the thing.  I'm going to try to convince my family that we should eat 100% local for one week.  That is 7 days of local only produce, meats, condiments, spices, herbs, and dairy.  It's mid October and this may be the last realistic chance we have at doing this.  

What does this mean?  No vegetable oil.  No pepper.  No oregano.  No avocado.  No mango.  No lemon. No pasta.  

What else does it mean?  Truly fresh food.  Eating only what is at its best right now.  Realizing that Autumn is more than sweaters and frosty breath--it's squash and nuts and late season tomatoes that fill your mouth with meaty sweetness when you bite into them.  It's seven days to realize where we are. It's seven days of here and now.

So, the timer is beeping for the lamb shanks.  I'm sure they'll be fine.  We'll see what comes after...


  1. I can't wait to read about how this goes. I try to eat local too but it's mainly the veggies that are local and I try to garden but everything else comes from the grocery store.

  2. Vincent--Thanks for the invite!

    Nirmala--Thanks for reading. It's going to be tough. I'm still working out the bread issue, or more specifically, the bread yeast issue. I found instructions on how to make your own yeast, but it calls for pineapple juice. So I'm trying with fresh apple juice I juiced from some local apples I had. If that works, then we can have our own yeast colony and we can make our own 100% local bread and then we'll be good to go!