Time has flown since the Mayflower Farm Lamb Dinner met with rave reviews from diners. Although it’s been more than a month since the big night, I hope that those who attended are still savoring the memory of the evening. Perhaps you have even incorporated some of the elements of the dinner into your own culinary repertoire.
In case you’re curious, here’s the first installment in the forthcoming series, “The Making of the Mayflower Farm Lamb Dinner.”
On a humid and gray Saturday morning Kayla and I drove up from Txikito with coolers full of sauces, rubs, vinaigrettes, gazpacho, and meatballs. With ten items on the menu, we would never have been able to pull off a dinner for 35 without this advance prep in Txikito’s kitchen.
When we arrived in Egremont we found the Cottage filled with baskets of apples, squash, potatoes, beets, and kale from Indian Line Farm, Mayflower Farm, and Three Sisters Farm, and two whole lambs lying in a chest freezer. In the time before Alex and Eder arrived I pretended I was coming in for a prep shift at Txikito and we started with the basics. Kayla and I spent the afternoon squeezing lemons, making mayonnaise, and hardboiling Mayflower Farm eggs.
Once Alex and Eder arrived the whirlwind of preparation really began. They brought their usual bash-boom-bang energy and we started roasting beets and butchering lambs full steam ahead.
As the sun set, we set upon the two whole lambs my dad had picked up from the slaughterhouse earlier in the day. The first one weighed in at 39 pounds–a hefty difference from the lambs they often roast in the Basque country (when their bones are still small enough to eat!) But Eder and Alex knew what to do, nonetheless.
One of my inspirations for the lamb dinner was Nate Smith’s “pick-your-part” dinners in Brooklyn, where the chefs cooked one whole animal in a number of different ways. Along with other old-fashioned, thrifty kitchen practices, cooking the whole animal “nose-to-tail” is all the rage right now in the New York food scene, and I wanted to try it out in the context of Mayflower Farm.
I also just wanted to see a Mayflower Farm lamb whole, and to then take it apart. We usually get our lamb back from the slaughterhouse already butchered and packaged for sale. This system is convenient for our customers and us, but hadn’t taught me much about ovine anatomy.
Leading up to the lamb dinner my family might have been a bit wary of the butchering aspect; they thought it would be bloody and messy. But it turned out the way I hoped; everyone was much more fascinated than revolted. We were only dealing with meat and bones, after all.
Since we were feeding a lot of people we decided to de-bone and roll everything into roasts. We served the rolled legs of lamb at the lamb dinner, but the breast meat went down to Txikito, where we have confited it and serve it as “Mayflower Farm falda de cordero.”
As Alex started rolling and tying roasts and I plugged along boning-out my first leg of lamb, Eder took on the second whole lamb.
I don’t know if this guy had a name in life, but we should have called him Collossus–he had a hang-weight of 51 pounds. Luckily, Mivi and German arrived at this point, to help us take on the brute. Mivi has worked at Txikito for two years now, and Alex and Eder invited her up to Mayflower Farm to be their sous-chef for the event. When they arrived she grabbed an apron, took out her knives, and took on another leg of lamb, while her boyfriend German took up his camera.
Eder took a different approach on the second lamb. He decided to split this one down the backbone so we could save the ribs for our lunch on Sunday, along with the kidneys, liver, and heart of each lamb.
After the tempest of lamb butchery and before dinner we ran across the street to pull the Indian Line Farm beets out of the oven and peel them. With that done we could all sit down together over the spaghetti and meatballs that my parents had prepared (a Frankies Spuntino’s recipe) and the whole gang could relax until Sunday morning.
To be continued…