We interrupt the usual metagossip and mockery of star chefs for an actual food-related post.
I have been intrigued, but a bit daunted by the eat local food challenge. It is definitely a stab in the right direction, but like so much related to eating better, it has that whiff of absolutism that can be offputting for the laodicean, the mugwump, or someone who finds that a banana as a snack in the afternoon prevents worse snacks. Also, the sponsoring org, Locavores, defines its mission thus:
For those of us who are ourselves not grown or harvested within 100 miles of San Francisco (864, represent!) the palette is more limited. It is the Alice Waters quoted in the New Yorker urging the citizens of North Dakota to subsist on rutabagas thing all over again. That said, September in the Upstate ain't February on the Great Plains, so I felt like it was time to put up or shut up. So the idea has certainly been with me as I have shopped and cooked recently, and motivated me to put the following together:
Braised lamb shanks with peach and rosemary over grits:
Lamb shanks (from the meat lab at school)
Peaches (in state)
Rosemary (out the kitchen door)
Vidalia Onions (205 miles away)
Chicken stock (homemade) I do not know where these (supermarket) chickens came from, but am seeking a local source. Local garlic would be possible, but pricey. Carrots, onions, and celery came from the regular supermarket, but could have been sourced locally (The stock was I had made for another application where I was not as focused on the local issue.) Still, I'd argue not using stock-in-a-box mitigates these lapses somewhat.
Grits (a mill in town)
I'd been interested in a rosemary/peach combo for a while, as the flavors always seemed to have an affinity to me. The lamb shank receipts I consulted indicated tomatoes, which I did not have, and I did have peaches.
So I browned the shanks in the smallest pot I had that would fit them, tucked quarters of peaches and onions around, snuck the rosemary into the interstices, covered with stock, and simmered for maybe 2:30. I set the shanks aside (fragile by this point) and forced the stock through a colander with a wooden spoon, discarding the remaining solids, rosemary sticks and so forth.
The next day, I defatted the stock, and reduced it by about 1/3. While doing so, I started the grits--these are big, coarse, yellow grits, not the stuff they sell at Holy Foods as "Grits, aka Polenta." Polenta and grits are similar, but different, like Mario Andretti and Cale Yarborough. Thus they take a while to cook--close to 40 min.
When the grits are about the texture you want, remove from heat, return shanks to stock pan, and reheat. Whisk butter into the grits--let you conscience be your guide. Remove meat from shanks.
Ladle portions of grits into pasta bowls, top with lamb, and ladle the sauce over generously.
This experiment worked out pretty well. The reduced stock harmonized the somewhat disparate lamb, rosemary, and peach flavors, though the rosemary got buried in the mix. As this is basically osso bucco with lamb shanks instead of veal, and grits instead of risotto, I might try serving this dish with a gremolada next time, with an emphasis on the rosemary. When our CSA cranks up again, I'll be doing more meals like this, and reporting on the results. In the meantime, what's happening in your foodshed, especially if you live outside the Locavores pale?