Several months ago we were offered the opportunity to buy an entire lamb from some folks just down the road, said opportunity arriving with the information that we were free to select the method in which the lamb arrived, packaged and sealed, at our door. Steve, inspired by reading Gourmandistan cookbooks such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Meat Book and Stéphane Reynaud’s Pork & Sons, believed he could get better use of the animal by insisting on “primal cuts.” Joyce Keibler, the nice lady who helps raise the lambs, seemed confused, saying most folks just got the usual chops, ground lamb, roasts and stew meat. But Steve insisted he wanted shanks, necks, breasts and other parts—and so the Keiblers’ butcher delivered, along with a hefty sack of viscera (brains, kidneys, heart, etc.) that sadly may wind up as food for a friend’s dog.
What we have discovered, after enjoying a couple of delicious legs and perfectly heavenly loin chops, is that lambs are quite the bony little bleaters, and “primal cuts” like shoulder end up being knobs and juts intertwined with muscle. So for a while now, “stew” and “lamb” have been interchangeable ideas in Gourmandistan. And one of our favorite stews has been pozole.
We’ve enjoyed big bowls of hominy and pork at many a Mexican restaurant, and Michelle had the idea to make a version using lamb instead of pork. (At the risk of losing a bit of our locavore street-cred, we must admit to a fondness for a particular dried hominy we’ve so far only found at Fox & Obel, an upscale grocery in Chicago. The lye-slaked corn is snowy white, cooks up to tender-yet-firm, almost pasta-like texture, and isn’t anything like the stuff we get around here. Sorry.) Plus, it’s a great way to make the most of neck and small shank slices. Another great way to deal with the odds-and-ends of nose-to-tail is Scotch Broth—but you may not hear more of this brew until the weather turns colder.
Sauté various bony lamb parts (we used a few shank slices and a neck bone), seasoned with salt and pepper, in a little oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add an onion, a bay leaf or 2, a few cloves of garlic, some dried Mexican oregano and some fresh parsley. Then fill the pot with water. Simmer for a few hours. You are making a lamb broth.
In the meantime, cook your hominy according to package directions. You might want to undercook it just a little so it doesn’t become too mushy on reheating.
Also, sauté some diced onion, peppers (we used a mix of Mexican red peppers and a Habanero we had frozen from last Summer) and garlic. If you want, you can add some diced carrot or other vegetables.
When the meat is tender, pull it out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
Mix the broth, the cooked hominy and the vegetables together. Pull what meat you can off the bones and add to the mix. Season. If not as spicy as you want, add (as we did) some chipotle pepper flakes.
Serve with tortillas and a selection of garnishes including shredded cabbage, chopped onions, radish slices, chopped cilantro and lime wedges.