I spent quality time as a vegetarian. I say quality because living meat-free is invigorating. I felt clear-headed, energized – pointedly opposite of sluggish.
But I couldn’t help feeling I was missing out. Like the awkward teenager mulling home on Saturday night, or the child sent to bed while her parents fraternized with guests downstairs.
Most of all, I craved lamb. Lamb curries, lamb stew, leg of lamb, rack of lamb, lamb gyros, anything with lamb. When I decided to gradually add meat back into my diet, lamb was first on the list.
I eat lamb about once a month, and when I do I’m picky. I choose meat from farmers who treat animals humanely, use sustainable methods and are free of hormones or antibiotics. For me, Prather Ranch was the natural choice for the lamb shanks in my meaty Bolognese.
California gourmands know Prather Ranch as the purveyor of organic meat in San Francisco’s Ferry Building and local farmers’ markets. They pride themselves on strong environmental philosophies and the natural treatment of their animals, which led to them achieving the “certified humane” label.
There’s more to Prather Ranch than quality chops and steaks, and it’s inconspicuous to regular customers. Along with providing sustainable products to Bay Area carnivores, they created a bridge between meat and medicine. Prather supplies cow bones, heart muscles, hides and glands to medical companies who in turn use them for glue, bone screws, collagen and artificial skin.
Prather’s unique farming methods and specific breeds make their cows especially coveted by companies like Regenerated Technologies, who produce implants for spinal and knee surgeries. Other criteria including the lack of meat and bones from the cows’ diet, the absence of pollution and contaminates in the farm’s vicinity and their strict harvest procedures – all allow Prather the opportunity to use or sell almost every part of their cows.
Looks like eating meat can be more rewarding than I thought.
Slow-Cooked Lamb Bolognese
(makes enough sauce for about 2 pounds of fresh pasta)
3 pounds organic lamb shank
1 28oz. can of organic, whole, peeled tomatoes. (I used Muir Glen)
½ can of organic tomato paste
About half a bottle of full-bodied red wine
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 bay leaves
fresh rosemary, chopped
2 pounds of fresh pappardelle
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
Flour for dusting
Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
Extra-Virgin olive oil
Marinate the night before:
Put the lamb shanks in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of red wine, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and about 1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary. Toss shanks with your hands to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, flip the shanks to marinate evenly.
Preheat oven to 320F.
Heat up a large cast iron pot and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Remove lamb shanks from marinade and lightly dust all sides with flour. On high heat and when oil is hot, brown the lamb on all sides. This should take about 10 minutes.
Remove lamb from the pot, and lower heat to medium. Add onions and cook for two minutes, or until translucent. Add chopped garlic, carrots and celery, and cook for two more minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of wine, stir to combine, and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
Add tomato paste, and stir until melted and covers all the vegetables. Roughly chop the peeled tomatoes (I use my hands) and add to the pot – throw in the tomato juices as well. Season with salt, pepper and bay leaves, and add one cup of red wine. Put the lamb shanks back in the pot and spoon some sauce on top.
Cover the pot and place in the middle of the oven. Cook at 320F for about 4-5 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven. Take the meat off the bones (it should really just fall off) and remove the bones from the sauce. Stir to combine.
Serve with fresh pappardelle. Drizzle on some strong olive oil and top with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.
Where I Shopped:
Prather Ranch lamb shanks: Temescal farmers’ market
Organic Tomatoes and paste: Monterey Market, Berkeley
Organic onions and carrots: Old Oakland farmers’ market
Fresh pappardelle pasta: The Pasta Shop, Oakland