Sunday, July 27, 2008

Aweful offal, yum!

Recipe: Braised Lamb

I've been reading a lot lately about the problems with our standard american diet (SAD). I'm sure I'll rant on and on about the various aspects of this on this blog - it's one of my passions.

Tonight *ta-ta-ta-da!* I'd like to focus on how we've moved so far away from healthy ways of eating animals. Aside from the fairly well known fact that commercially grown animals are raised in unhealthy circumstances with unnatural foods (did you know that corn is bad for a cow? 'Corn fed beef!' has been a prime selling point in the industry for many years - and it's one of the factors that has led to the overuse of antibiotics in the poor animals). Then we cut off the fat, take off the skin, make sure it's cooked to death, and above all - throw away the icky bits.

Well, I'd like to focus on the icky bits. I'm really trying to get used to the application of what I've learned, that our forebears enjoyed better health because THEY ATE THE WHOLE ANIMAL.

I'm all for treating animals humanely. Most of the animals my family eats, as my supplier says 'only have one bad day'. I've gotten into the habit of making bone broth, slow cooked for 24 hours until the bones are soft and the broth is solid gelatin at room temperature. And I love leaving the skin on and the fat intact, using any rendered grass fed animal's fats for cooking other meals in - I get the concept that all the nutrients in the plants that they eat (and the toxins!) are concentrated in the fat on their bodies, that I'm helping my kids developing brains with the good omega 3s, etc., etc. It's easy to act on this knowledge, because, well, ... it tastes good. I like fat. Good mouth feel. Satisfying in the belly. Just plain YUM. Broth, too, great to cook rice in, great for braised stews and roasts, great as a base for veggie pasta sauces.

But, I'm not so sure about liver. Kidneys. Brains. Heart. Spleen. I know, there are restaurants popping up in the upper eschalons of the culinary world that focus on offal, and I enjoy a nice chicken liver pate on occasion. But what I've been reading is that it's beneficial to have organ meat on a regular basis, a few times weekly at the least, and I just haven't done it.


As I was digging in the freezer this afternoon for our evening protein source, I pulled out the big plastic bag of nicely wrapped portions of pastured lamb that I bought from our wonderful local farmer. It's getting pretty light, which I knew, I'm set to pick up another bag full later this week. Inside is a small packet labeled 'lamb stew', another labeled 'shanks', and a third labeled 'heart'. There's a fourth with 'liver' stamped on it. So, you see, I've been avoiding these two packets for a few months.

Before I have a chance to talk myself out of it (again) I grab the stew, shanks and heart.

I figured if I cut it into small pieces and cooked it with the rest of the braised meat, maybe no one would notice.

Really, I don't personally mind the taste of organ meat. But I'm obviously still affected by the cultural *eewww* *shudder* reaction, since I'm assuming that my kids won't like it. My husband won't like it. And 'I don't personally mind the taste' is not the same thing as saying 'God, I love liver!'

The really interesting thing is, I'm realizing that my kids have somehow escaped the cultural *ick* response, for the most part. We keep them quite protected on a lot of levels, not much exposure to tv, they have various food sensitivities which means they aren't exposed to much processed, mainstream food, and to them, meat is meat. They didn't question that some of it had a slightly different texture than the rest, and when I casually mentioned that some of it was heart, neither of them blinked. Went right on eating. My oldest was fighting with me over one of the marrow bones, chewing on the cartilage, seeing who could get out the little marrow morsel inside.

Then I realize, we're changing the cultural conditioning. Right here, right now. My kids will eat organ meat, they don't have anyone telling them that it's 'gross'. They know where their food comes from, it's not a mysterious plastic wrapped blob mom bought at the supermarket. They've picked up the chicks that grow into the chickens that they've watched bleed to death head down, waiting to be plucked, bagged and weighed, and put into our cooler, and then our freezer at home. They're excited at the prospect of raising our own animals.

It's me that's not quite there yet. Me not too sure about the amount of work it would take, not to mention if I'm up for wrestling with a live creature with the intention to take it's life that we might live well. That's a leap of willingness that I aspire to. Am I ready to truly acknowledge and act on the knowledge that I stand HERE in the chain of transformation, of life becoming death becoming life?

Well, I did eat lamb's heart tonight. I can't say I liked it as much as the shank meat, but I was conscious that I was doing something good for my body, and the body of my family. And I'm proud that my kids didn't shrink from the idea, not to mention the reality of it. They ate their food, nourished their bodies, in trust that I'd made them something good.

Oh, the recipe -

Braised Lamb
gluten free, dairy free, low salicylate, egg free, NOT low carb. Maybe if you pick around the potatoes, but I wouldn't eat it if you have candida.

1/2 pound lamb stew

2 lamb shanks
1 lamb heart, chopped in half inch pieces, tough bits trimmed off
a dollop of bacon grease
1 onion
4 crushed garlic cloves
1 sprig rosemary
1 T dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 couple handfuls baby carrots
1/2 cup lemon juice (red wine or balsamic vinegar would be great, too, but I've got a kid that can't have salicylates)
2 cups poultry bone broth (lamb would be better, but I'd run out)
1 1/2 pounds yellow potatoes, half inch diced
sprinkle of potato flour to thicken

Brown the meat in the bacon grease over medium high heat in a cast iron dutch oven. Reserve the meat on the side and sauté the onions, garlic, and herbs until beginning to brown. Deglaze the pan with the lemon juice or wine, add the meat, carrots and broth. Cook two and a half hours at a low simmer on stove top or in the oven at 325 degrees. Add diced potatoes for half hour or 45 minutes more. Strain out the solids, return liquid to pan, bring to a boil and sprinkle in potato flour while whisking steadily. When desired thickness is reached (a little potato flour goes a long way!) return meat and veggies to the pot and serve.

We had it with steamed artichokes and homemade mayonnaise. There's four of us, and we ate the whole thing.

1 comment:

LaSara FireFox Allen said...

YUM!!!! My mouth is watering. Congrats on the blog, and I can't wait to see more! (Dinner...soon!)