Head out of the gutter readers, it ain’t my rack you’ll be reading about today! This one’s about LAMB!
Due to an unfortunately poor response and cancellation of the workshop “Meet your Meat” scheduled to take place on May 31st with Dan DeMatteis and Alex Johnston of Provenance Regional Cuisine, Dan and I decided to play anyway and break down the tiny 31lb lamb that had been custom slaughtered for the event. So sad that we couldn’t do it with a group, but fun none the less!
It all started with Mark Trealout, of the Kawartha Ecological Growers, delivering the fully dressed animal, guts swinging in the wind from chest cavity, eyeballs popping out of the skinned head, and tongue twisted and turned around sticking out through the jaw bone akin to faces a six year old makes when he is angry about going to school that day. It was a Dorsett/Suffolk cross produced by Leroy Zehr slaughtered last Tuesday
Having a farmer pull up in a big truck on a residential street, and then pulling out a naked lamb, was certainly good entertainment for the neighbours. Mark took hold of the four skinny ankles and laid it to rest, like it was no big deal, on my kitchen table. The neighbours will have lots to talk about regarding the creepy girl who lives underground in the house next door.
Crisper drawers removed from the fridge, and everything else shifted about to make space, I stuffed little lamby into a clear garbage bag and squeezed him in. This is the contraption I skillfully created to keep the door closed (serious lack of duct tape in my apartment).
We prepared the harvest table for dissection and wrapped it in parchment paper, got out multiple dishes to collect all of the good bits, and sharpened our knives. Armed with cleavers and saws we went to it, Chateau des Charmes non-oaked Chardonnay at the ready. Dan is an excellent teacher and patient beyond patient as I fumbled my way along muscles, tendons, and fascia.
He let me do the fancy parts like the tenderloins and meat from around the neck explaining to me how to create a beautiful roast all tied up with string like a pretty little package. We laughed a lot, and enjoyed Jenny Whitely singing to us from the radio. There were certainly a few cuts that we didn’t get quite right. Namely figuring out how to separate the chops from the vertebrae, without having to saw the whole back bone in half. And forgetting to leave that portion of shoulder meat attached to the rack instead of cutting it off with the shoulder leaving a gash in the skin around the ribs.
It was pretty simple once we figured out that we could just cleave our way down each side of the backbone and the rack would stay together. Unfortunately there were little shards of bone everywhere around the kitchen due to our having to learn that the hard way.
Note to all aspiring butchers: saws made to cut through wood for home building projects are NOT, I repeat, NOT, designed to cut through lamb bones.
Dan snapped the rib cages, to show how manly he was, and to break up the chops from the short ribs and belly meat, cut off chunks of shoulder meat for stewing, and removed the shank leaving a big hunk of roast ready rump. Boy did he prove his manliness to me!
After a few hours of hacking our way through little lamby, it was time for din dins. I don’t generally eat meat, although that seems to be quickly changing, but I couldn’t wait to taste the earthy flavour of lamb at the tail end of this beautiful spring. We whipped together a simple arugula and radish salad, some spongy buckwheat crepes,
and sweet potato mash, seasoned the lamb rack with rosemary from the garden, and harvested mint for a simple syrupy sauce. Together with two little kidneys, Dan offered up perfectly grilled chops from the BBQ that melted in our mouths.It was indescribable, but I’ll do my best. The most delicate and crispy skin enveloped a thin but substantial layer of flavourful fat, which housed tender, juicy morsels of meat falling off of the bones and through our lickable fingers. There was just enough pink sea salt to balance out the satisfying sweetness, as well as gamey and musty qualities for which lamb is so highly sought after. The juices ran down our chins as we sucked every last ounce of perfect meat from the ribs. Swimming in freshly made mint sauce, the meal was a perfect treat for all of our hard work breaking down little lamby. My landlord came out to join us on the patio out back, cheekily introducing herself to Dan by hollering “Nice rack!”.We lingered for a while al fresco in what was arguably a lamb coma or newly coined term “loma”, then faced the clean up that awaited us in the kitchen.