GULF COAST LAMB

GULF COAST LAMBS-HARDY YOUNGSTERS THAT ROAM FREELY, GRAZING ON GRASS AND WOODLAND VEGETATION, AND THUS DEVELOP A MEAT THAT IS LEANER, RICHER, AND MORE FLAVORFUL THAN THE RATHER BLAND, GENERIC-TASTING MEAT OF SHEEP FROM FACTORY FARMS. OUR GULF COAST LAMBS HAVE BEEN GRAZING HERE SINCE THE SPANISH INTRODUCED THEM TO FLORIDA IN THE 1500s, AND ARE ONE OF THE OLDEST AND MOST RESILIENT BREEDS IN THE COUNTRY.

THESE STALWART SHEEP BLEATED THEIR WAY UP THROUGH THE FLORIDA PARISHES TO NEW ORLEANS’S NORTH SHORE, MIXING WITH OTHER IMPORTED BREEDS ALONG THE WAY AS THEY ADAPTED TO OUR EXTREME HUMIDITY AND HEAT, EVOLVING INTO THE GULF COAST POPULATION WE KNOW TODAY.

ALSO KNOWN AS FLORIDA NATIVE OR LOUISIANA NATIVE, THEST WHITE OR TAN SHEEP ARE COMPARATIVELY SMALL AND NIMBLE, WITH AN OPEN, WOOL-FREE FACE AND LEGS AND A LIGHTWEIGHT FLEECE THAT HELP THEM STAY COOL.

AT ONE POINT THEY BECAME ENDANGERED WHEN THE RAISING OF SHEEP FELL OUT OF VOGUE IN THE SOUTH BECAUSE MOST LIVESTOCK farmings WAS RELEGATED TO AREAS IN THE MIDWEST AND EASTERN PLAINS STATES, WHERE GRAIN IS PRODUCED. FORTUNATELY, THE CURRENT REVIVAL IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND APPRECIATION FOR ANIMALS REARED WITH MINIMAL INTERVENTION HAS MEANT THAT OUR GULF COAST SHEEP ARE ENJOYING A WELL-EARNED REVIVAL OF THEIR OWN.

THIS ROAST LAMB WILL TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE, BUT IT SUR GIVES IT BACK. THE IDEA IS TO BRAISE THE SHOULDER OR SHANKS FIRST, THEN STUFF THE BRAISED LAMB INTO THE RAW, BUTTERFLIED LEG OF LAMB AND ROAST THAT. ONCE IT’S STUFFED, MAKE SURE TO TRUSS THE LEG REALLY WELL WITH KITCHEN STRING AND ROAST IT IMMEDIATELY.

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE LAMB

2 pounds lamb shoulder or shanks

salt freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 tomatoes, peeled and diced, or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 cups basic chicken stock

FOR THE LEG OF LAMB:

1  5-pound deboned and butterflied leg of lamb

salt, freshly ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 branches fresh rosemary, divided into small sprigs

  1. For the lamb stuffing, season the lamb shoulder or shanks with salt, pepper, thyme, and pepper flakes. heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over high heat and sear the lamb on all sides until browned all over.
  2. Add the onions to the pot, reduce the heat to moderate, and cook, stiring occasionally, until the onions are brown, about 10 minutes. add the garlic, tomatoes, rosemary, and chicken stock, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook until the stock comes to a boil. reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the meat is fork tender and falling off the boon, about 1  1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer the meat from the broth to a platter (set the broth aside for later); season with salt and pepper. set the meat aside and let cool to room temperature.
  4. For the leg of lamb, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. lay out the leg of lamb, skin side down, on a cutting board and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove the cooled slow-cooked meat from the bones and arrange it in the center of the boneless leg of lamb (parallel to the short sides). discard the bones. Beginning with a short side, roll the lamb around the slow-cooked meat, jelly-ross fashion, and tie it securely with kitchen string.
  6. Using a paring knife, make small incisions in the tied-up roast. stuff a slice of garlic or a sprig of rosemary into each incision and season the roast with salt and pepper. put the lamb into a roasting pan and roast until the internal temperature is 130 degrees, 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes.

While the lamb rests, reduce the broth of the slow-cooked meat by half over medium-high heat. Strain and serve it over slices of the stuffed leg of lamb.

courtesy of “MY NEW ORLEANS-THE COOKBOOK” by John Besh

 

 

 

 

 

 

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