Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Good-Natured Ribbing.

If you are of the omnivore persuasion, perhaps you've noticed that the Market has Shepherd Song Farm (WI) pastured lamb loin & rib chops on sale during the Eat Local period.

Being as I'm the meat buyer for the store, I thought I might take a moment to highlight the rib chops, as well as show one of the possible end uses for a stock such as the one I've been blathering about recently.

I'm a big fan of braising, a cooking technique closely related to stewing, but with a bit more class. Both methods produce intensely flavored & richly sauced dishes, often utilizing tougher & cheaper cuts of meat. But braising allows for the use of the whole cut in the final dish, whereas stewing requires cutting it into pieces. Additionally, any bones can be left intact, enhancing the flavor & final presentation.

The first step is to brown the meat in the pot (or deep pan) that you'll be braising in. The object here is to color & flavor the outside of the cut, not cook it all the way through:

Once the meat is nicely browned, it is removed & kept warm while the vegetables (in this case, onions, carrots, roasted garlic & the rest of my homemade tomato paste) are caramelized in the same pan. Vinegar or wine can be used to deglaze the pot, & aid in the eventual softening of the meat's tissues. The cooking liquid is added to the veggies & brought to a low simmer. A stock made from the same animal, or one complimentary to it, is the best bet. Obviously, having devoted my free time over the last 24 hours to making beef stock, that's what I went with.

The resting meat is then added back into the mix:

I upgraded my cell phone in May, in part so I could take nicer pictures
of things like food. Now I need to find one that takes pictures of smells...

After about 30-45 minutes of low, low covered simmering, the lid can be removed & the cuts of meat turned every 10 minutes or so, to help build a glaze on their surfaces. This should continue for at least 30 more minutes, until the meat slides right off of a fork when pierced. Meanwhile, any side dishes can be completed. When the cuts have finished braising, they are removed & kept warm, along with some moistening cooking liquid. The liquid remaining in the pot can be skimmed of any fat & strained of vegetables. I reduced mine a bit further to concentrate the flavor, making a partial demi-glace, & then thickened it just slightly with a little roux.

Local pastured lamb rib chops with demi-glace,
gruyere mashed potatoes, & wilted red mustard greens.

A word of warning; Beware the power of the red mustard greens! Seriously, they don't mess around. They certainly served their purpose as contrasts to the intense flavor of the beef stock-based demi-glace, but if I were to use them again, I'd probably seek to mellow them out somehow...

Overall, though, this was a great meal & well worth the wait. I've still got plenty of stock left over for other projects, as well.

It never ceases to amaze me how much better food is when we are deeply involved in its production. It looks better, smells better & tastes better. Is it a placebo effect brought on by the feeling of "I did that"? Is there some sort of actual metaphysical cause?

Does it matter?

-nano out.


Darci Alexis said...

Stop making meat look so good! I am really considering breaking my veggie ways to try this! Lamb is my FAVORITE. Good Job!

Darci Alexis said...

Wow, that was a lot of exclamation points. Guess I get excited about lamb chops.

nano said...

I am terribly sorry, but it IS my job to make meat look good, after all.