You’ve heard the expression, “When March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb.” Well March is drawing to a close, and though it came in with a roar this year, it is still pretty leonine. We’re hoping that the weather gods get the message and send it out as gentle as a lamb. Looking at the forecast doesn’t help! Thursday in Toronto calls for thunder and lightning and a low of 6 C. So just to be on the safe side of things, we’re taking the bull by the horns (there’s a lot of animals imagery here today!) and making sure there’s lamb in the hood. Or at least in the Dutch Oven.
Canada only produces about 40% of the lamb and sheep consumed domestically, the rest is imported, much of it from New Zealand. But when it comes to ethically raised livestock, quality and taste, it is second to none, and the demand for fresh lamb continues to rise. Certainly anyone who strives to eat “local” would be hard-pressed to justify purchasing New Zealand lamb, but the fact of the matter is, there are just not enough farmers raising lamb in Ontario to match the demand. For an interesting look at some of the issues and practices facing Ontario lamb farmer’s check out this video.
There are a great many ways to enjoy lamb; rack of lamb is a true show-stopper, and lamb chops, lamb burgers and roast leg of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary all demonstrate the versatility of lamb in our cuisine. But for our money, braised lamb shanks are one of the best ways to enjoy it, and a perfect dish to serve when spring is acting more like winter. Not only are braised shanks delicious, but lamb is incredibly good for you too:
“Lamb is a great source of protein, essential vitamins and minerals. A regular 3-ounce serving averages about 43% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein. It also averages 74% of the RDA of vitamin B- 12, 30% of the zinc, 30% of the niacin, 17% of the iron, and 15% of the riboflavin. In addition to this, the correct ratio of all 8 of the essential amino acids is contained in lamb meat” .-ontariolamb.ca
The “shank” is the muscular, meaty lower part of the lamb leg. It has a little more connective tissue and cartilage than the glory-hogging upper leg, so braising it over a long period of time tenderizes the meat and breaks down the connective tissues, giving the stock a rich and shimmering healthy addition of protein and dissolved gelatin that also happens to be ridiculously delicious.
Here is one of our favourite recipes for Braised Lamb Shanks, served with gremolata and baked polenta. If you can make it with fresh, Ontario lamb, so much the better. So this week, do your part to make sure March goes out like a lamb. Our farmers will say, “Shank you very much!”