For the last few years, I have been dutifully noshing on the radio with knife and fork in hand, acting as Joan Hamburg's co-host at New York's Annual Food Merchants Show broadcast live from the Concord Hotel.
It came as a pleasant surprise during a recent show when I bit into what was purported to be defrosted frozen lamb stew and discovered a slice of meat so succulent it gave most competitive fresh offerings a bad name.
The lamb was a mail-order product from Jamison Farm in Latrobe, Pa. Jamison Farm is situated on 170 acres of rolling landscape in Westmoreland County. What used to be dubbed "a mom-and-pop business," Jamison Farm is run by a couple of sophisticated lamb-lovers and good cooks, John and Sukey Jamison, along with their three children who double as hired hands between house chores and homework.
Started as an Avocation
John Jamison, a former coal salesman, started the farm as an avocation in 1979. The farm breeds ewes twice a year instead of once, so the meat sold under their name will be guaranteed fresh and mild-tasting whenever it is purchased. The Jamisons resolutely do not feed their stock any antibiotics, chemicals or hormones.
One may buy young milk-fed lamb by special order from Jamison Farm and any amount of legs, shoulders, saddles, racks and even stewing meat or shish kebabs cut to specific requirements. Jamison Farm ships all its meat well-frozen and in such a solid state that it took two full days for a leg of lamb to thaw in my New York apartment refrigerator. Prices are on the high side, but so is the quality. And every tab includes shipping charges within United Parcel Service ground delivery zones. Shipping west of the Mississippi River via air express delivery is extra. For more information or a price list, call the farm's toll-free number: (800) 237-LAMB.
What makes the following recipe so irresistible is studding the uncooked lamb's surface with alternate slivers of fresh garlic and ginger. I do it with an ice pick and a patient hand. In a pinch, if fresh ginger is unavailable, thin strips of crystallized ginger will make do.
GINGER-ROASTED LEG OF LAMB
1 (5 1/2- to 6-pound) leg of lamb
1 large clove garlic, cut into 1/2-inch slivers
1-inch chunk peeled ginger root, cut into 1/2-inch slivers
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
With small sharp knife or ice pick, make pattern of small deep incisions over top and sides of lamb. Place on rack in roasting pan. Fill each incision alternately with slivers of garlic and ginger.
Combine mustard, soy sauce, olive oil and lemon juice in small bowl. Whisk until thick and smooth. Spread over top and sides of lamb. Let stand 2 to 3 hours before roasting.
Roast lamb at 450 degrees 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Continue to roast lamb 1 hour for medium-rare. Let stand 15 minutes before carving. Makes 8 servings.
To my mind, lamb shanks are a highly underused and undervalued ingredient. Meaty and rich in flavor, they make the best stewing lamb, as well. Try them in a version I made countless times as a party dish when I was the chief cook and bottle-washer at the Store in Amagansett, N.Y., 20 years ago.
HEAVENLY BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
3 tablespoons flour
4 (1-pound) lamb shanks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup red wine
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon chopped rosemary or dash dried rosemary
Combine 1 tablespoon flour with dash salt and paprika and lightly dust meat.
Melt butter with oil in deep heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute meat until well browned on all sides. Remove to plate.
Add onion to saucepan and saute over medium heat until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Return meat to pan. Add wine, 3/4 cup water, rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees until meat is easily pierced with fork, about 2 hours.
Remove meat from pan juices. Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons flour with remaining 1/2 cup water and add to pan juices. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until gravy thickens and comes to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Strain.
Serve shanks garnished with parsley. Pass gravy on side. Makes 4 servings.