Seconds Best

lamb riblets

Photograph by Chris Siefken

Slow-cooked lamb riblets satisfy hearty winter appetites.

By Annemarie Ahearn

A trip to the butcher shop on a cold winter’s day stirs a hunger for a slow-cooked meal. Look for second cuts, which are only second in their market value. They offer a deeper, more complex taste, especially after hours spent simmering in the oven or on the stovetop. Steer clear of the much-sought-after chops and ask for oxtail, ribs, or a shin. They’re the unsung gems of butchery, reserved for those in the know — which now include you!

Braised Lamb Riblets with Lemon Zest and Mint

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 pounds lamb riblets

2 medium yellow onions, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

4 stalks celery, peeled and diced

kosher salt and freshly ground
pepper to taste

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, roughly crushed with your hand

1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary, 2 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf, and 8 peppercorns), tied up in cheesecloth

4 cups beef stock

2 tablespoons cold butter

1 bunch mint, picked and cleaned

zest of 1 lemon

In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown riblets on all sides and set aside. Pour off extra grease and add onion, carrots, celery, and a touch of salt and ground pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cover. After 10 minutes, add garlic and cover for another couple of minutes. Once vegetables are transluscent and begin to brown, press tomato paste into vegetables until evenly distributed. Move continuously for one minute with the back of a wooden spoon. Add red wine and reduce by half. Reintroduce riblets, along with the tomatoes, bouquet garni, and enough beef stock to almost cover ribs. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and partially cover the pot. Place over low heat or in a 325-degree oven for 2½–3 hours. Once sauce has thickened, remove riblets. Let cool. Strain sauce for a finer presentation or leave as is. Swirl butter into sauce. Return riblets to pot. Serve over soft polenta and garnish with fresh mint and lemon zest. If you like, you can dress up the dish with cherry tomatoes that have been blistered in a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and a touch of salt.

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Annemarie Ahearn

Annemarie Ahearn runs Salt Water Farm cooking school in Lincolnville and is the author of the recently published cookbook Full Moon Suppers at Salt Water Farm.

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