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Posts Tagged ‘Lamb’

Lamb is a really fine meat.  I mean, it’s got a lot of things going in its favor.  It’s a young animal, which means it’s tender and flavorful, and it’s not industrially produced, which means that every lamb is free-range grass-fed blah blah delicious.  And with the exception of rack of lamb, it’s a very affordable quality meat (it is still meat though, so it’s not as cheap as carrots).  Lamb has a lot going for it, and so it would be my go-to meal for special occasions, except that my mom doesn’t like it. 😦

As for this stew–decadent, and probably of French origin.  It’s for sure the tastiest way to make lentils.  Lamb braised in red wine, add tomatoes, carrots, lentils, simmer forever.  The lamb is exceedingly tender, and the delicious lamby flavor infuses the lentils.  Good dinner, and great lunch the next day!  Like braised short ribs, this is a very sensual dish.

Braised lamb and lentil stew

3-4 lamb shanks, each approx 1 pound
12-16 oz dried lentils
aromatic vegetables, such as carrots, onion, garlic, tomatoes
herbs: thyme or rosemary to taste, 2 bay leaves
1 bottle red wine
salt and pepper

Optional first step (worth it): brown lamb on all sides in dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add lamb, vegetables, herbs, and wine, bring to a boil, cover.  Continue simmering either over low heat on the stove top or in the oven at 350F.  After an hour add lentils, salt, and pepper, and cook for about another hour.  Don’t worry about overcooking the lentils, but be sure the pot doesn’t dry out (don’t be afraid to add more liquid–water is fine).

*The ideal cut for this dish is lamb shank, which with more connective tissue is perfect for braising.  Ferraro’s was out of lamb shank when we went, so we got half a leg instead.

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Good Friday

Over the years, we’ve both separately developed a number of traditions and practices around the Easter season. Starting in college, Joann adopted the tradition of very competitive easter egg hunts — these have sometimes involved pinatas, Central Park strangers, and raw eggs, and one year resulted a very badly twisted ankle.  Similarly (or not very similarly at all, actually!), a few years ago, Greg began the practice of fasting on Good Friday. Through our dating and marriage, we’ve come to influence each other’s traditions quite a bit: Joann now wears an ankle brace during easter egg hunts and joins Greg in fasting, and we both break fast with lamb.

Good Friday commemorates the day that Jesus, the Lamb of God, died as substitution for our sins, so what a better day to remember his atonement than to hunger for Him as we hunger for food, and to satisfy our longing by partaking of that which truly satisfies us, which truly nourishes us, the Lamb of God?

Why fast on Good Friday?  Well, for the same reason the Israelites were commanded to fast for the Day of Atonement (although, Christians are not commanded to fast on Good Friday).  There is a lot of misunderstanding about why Israel would fast on that day.  Most people think that the act of fasting was the act of atoning for their sins, that their forgiveness came because they were fasting, because they humbled themselves and repented.  But that’s not true: the Day of Atonement was the day that the sins of Israel were symbolically “placed” on a goat that was sent out of the city (hence, “scapegoat”) and a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of Israel.  These were the things that “atoned” for the sins of Israel.  Sort of.

On the one hand, the sacrificial lamb harkened back to the Passover in Egypt when the God’s judgement passed over those houses who took shelter under the blood of the lamb (painted on their doorposts).  But more importantly, the sacrifice of a lamb (all the ritual sacrifices, in fact) pointed forward to what God would ultimately do.  Israel trusted in the atonement of the sacrifices not because the death of a goat or lamb or a bull would calm an angry god, but they trusted in the hope it represented, the hope that God would one day provide the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  That was why Abraham named the mountain “The LORD will provide.”  That was the lesson when he went to sacrifice Isaac on the mountain: we don’t provide the sacrifice, the LORD does.  The LORD provides, and that’s the background to the entire sacrificial system.

All well and good: so why fast?  When fasting we remember viscerally that we cannot live without “bread” (food, generally), that we cannot live without nourishment.  On the Day of Atonement we remember that we cannot live unless God provides the sacrifice, we cannot live unless we partake of Him.  We hunger for bread, because ultimately we hunger for the Bread of Life.

One important passage about fasting in the Bible is Isaiah 58.  It begins with Israel complaining, “Why have we fasted, why have we humbled ourselves, and You have not noticed?”  What follows is marvelous–but a little surprising:

6“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ “

The day of fasting is not a day to humble yourself that God may notice, it’s a day to act justly, to give generously, to feed the hungry, the homeless, the oppressed.  But this is the Day of Atonement–why should this day especially be a day to do these things?

Because it is the day that we remember that the LORD provided the sacrifice that spared us His justice; the day He generously gave us eternal life; the day he fed those who hungered for righteousness, for pardon; the day He made us His children, to live in His house forever; the day He set us free from the anger, hate, greed, envy, insecurity, and guilt that oppress and enslave us.  It is the day we remember the LORD provides.  Who are we then to withhold justice?  Who are we then to ignore the needy and quarrel and fight?  This is the day we remember that God saved us because He saved us.  He saved us because He saved us.

So on Good Friday, we celebrate with joy the food that God bids us to take and eat free of charge; we celebrate God’s covenant love for his covenant community; we celebrate that on the cross God is just and the justifier of many.  Perfect love, perfect justice.  And so we fast this day and satisfy our hunger with roasted lamb.

Broiled Leg of Lamb

Boneless leg of lamb, about 5 pounds
olive oil, rosemary, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper

Butterfly the lamb and smother it in the oil and spices.  Let sit for about an hour.  Broil for about 20 minutes, flip and 20 minutes more.  Let sit 10 minutes before slicing.  Delicious with red wine; bread is good, too.

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