Mother’s love for lamb
As the story goes, my mother was eating roast leg of lamb during the onset of labor pains and would not leave the table until she had finished the last bite. It was Oct. 26, 1932, at my paternal grandmother’s home in San Jose. The old home, now long gone, breathed of warmth, love and family, the roasting lamb pervading its atmosphere. I must have absorbed that delicious aroma into every pore of my unborn body, because to this day, I cannot get enough of lamb.
Mother cooked lamb on special occasions, especially at Easter time. My sister, who also likes lamb to excess, remembers that we used to squabble over the meaty end bone of the roast, but it was a given that I would get that piece. I chewed and sucked every scrap of juicy flesh from that bone. Mother prepared the lamb to perfection with celery, carrots, onions and new potatoes rich with steaming gravy. There was always a side of mint jelly, which for me merely detracts from the flavor.
When I married, mint jelly never appeared on the table in our home, but the squabbling for that sizzling tender end piece continued with our children. One daughter told me, with a note of surprise in her voice, that she has met people who do not like lamb! When our grown son asks us out for dinner, I know that he has researched the restaurant to be sure that lamb is on the menu.
Now, with just two of us to cook for, my husband and I have developed a taste for lamb shank, which we slow-cook in V-8 juice to tender perfection. But we also like to go out to dinner, and were we ever pleased when Restaurante Orozko opened at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
You should have seen the look on my face when the dinner plate was put before me our first time there—the shank bone was as long as the plate! On our second visit, I asked the waiter to bring a shank with a shorter bone, but they always serve lamb so meaty that I can enjoy leftovers the following day.
Orozko’s braised lamb shanks, prepared by chef Danny Sinnott with great pride, are from Greeley, Colo. A knife is superfluous for such a tender piece of lamb. Several vegetables add color to the dish: red peppers, baby corn, summer squash, carrots and small asparagus. Garlic potatoes pillow the meat and gravy. Dessert? Who has room when an ample salad of assorted greens precedes the main course?
Our latest visit to Orozko was in October for my 69th birthday celebration. Adorning each table was a beautiful, fully opened yellow rose, which I see as a symbol of my mother’s love.
We asked the waitress if we might take home the rose on our table, since we were the last people in the restaurant before it closed, and she gathered several others and presented me with a lovely bouquet. Orozko has not seen the last of us.
From “Choice Lamb,” written for my mother (1902-1981)
Choice lamb roasted
on the spit of suffering
you served tender portions
offered rich, smooth gravy
your juices flowing
Having eaten at your table
we flourish on the shores
of quiet rain
journey among the lambs