Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lamb Ragu

Dear La Spiga,

This is a ragu. Allow me to define: a thick, full-bodied meat sauce. I should have trusted my gut and not ordered your "mushroom ragu," but mushrooms can be meaty and, certainly, in a restaurant with a good reputation, I expected a meaty, hearty mushroom ragu. Melted butter does not a ragu make. Also, cayenne powder is not an acceptable garnish, especially when it will mix itself into the dish and alter the flavor for the worse ... which was hard to do, but you figured out how. Indeed, to say your dish was nothing special would be an affront to purveyors of Nothing Special the world over. It was a Mess. It was Terrible.

Nonetheless, I would like to thank you. The horrendous culinary experience at your establishment inspired me to join Yelp! and I now have another outlet for writing about food, etc. I also have an online community which writes about food, etc.

So, simultaneously: You suck AND thanks.

Jen S.

These are the lamb shanks of which I spoke - post-browning. So the shank is the leg, naturally. Since these are wee legs, this was a wee lamb. I discovered, upon looking up "lamb" in a couple of my cookbooks, that Americans are not fond of said cute mammal. We eat a mere 1.5 lbs. of it per person, per annum. Hm. What is the beef poundage, you ask? I dunno. I'll guess 50lbs. The Greeks, Irish, Icelanders, Australians and New Zealanders take their sheep much more seriously. I love it, myself.

So I got my lamb shanks at Uwajimaya. There was a bloody fingerprint on the packaging. Butchering hazard, I suppose. The recipe says to brown your shanks on all sides, then remove them in order to saute your aromatics. Such aromatics in this guy, too! Onion, garlic, mushrooms, crushed red pepper, fresh basil and thyme (it was rosemary, but I have thyme, so I substituted). Wow, that basil filled the air with its sweet green scent - fabulous. That's when you know you are doing a good thing. When everything is sauteed, in goes some wine to reduce, then the lamb and the rest of the liquids: beef broth and a can of tomatoes. Into the 325 oven for 1.5 hours.

I love recipes like this. With Mark Sorenson's Recipes there are a lot of stews and such, so I am getting good at the methodology. Provided you start early enough in the evening, you can have a prodigious, meaty feast on the table every night. Sam even seems to like them. He didn't sample the lamb, but he likes the chicken stews.
I would like to introduce you to my mini-chopper. I saw Michael Chiarello using one on his show. At least once every few episodes, he comments about how we cannot make fun of his chopper because his nonna used one, and it works well, so there. So I bought one. It makes a heck of a lot of noise, and I have to run through the pile of onions once with my knife because there are always a few big chunks left, but it does make quick work of onions and garlic. And we know how much chopping onions and garlic are my least favorite tasks in the kitchen. So, a mini-chopper - don't be ashamed to get one for yourself!

The finished product! I know, I know; I garnished! I do it for you!

After the lamb is done, you remove it from the liquid to let it cool a bit. Then you take it off the bone and return it to the sauce. Serve over pasta. I should have served it over rigatoni, or some other large, tubular pasta. (Any other Californians out there hear "totally tubular" in a great surfer argot upon seeing that word?) The idea is that the ragu dances in and out of the shapes. But I have spaghetti (whole wheat), so spaghetti it was.

Did I say it was delicious? It was delectable! Meat, mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs, beef broth - what's not to like?


  1. You read my mind...that recipe please button will be used by ME! Thank you! I need to look back at the couscous pudding and see if I should start there (or if you included it...)and there was something with beans...hmmm. Looking forward to Sat...hopefully with 6 healthy dinner participants! Oh, and we could go to Gastropub on Lisa-night, or somewhere else you've been wanting to Yelp!. EB

  2. Ohh! Something else: I had an amazing drink at 22 doors (redone so now a bar only...) last week with Lillet, gin, sparkling water, and sage. When I asked about the sage, she said it was added for sweetness and there were no little leaf-bits floating, so I guess it was some sage infused sweetness. Oh, the drink was gooood! - EB

  3. Anything with Lillet sounds great. Maybe we can try to recreate it on Sat. I will share any and all my recipes with you. I need to experiment to see how I can link to a separate page and then archive recipes. All this while Sam naps???