Talking with Lucia Watson About Lamb and Shepherd Song Farm

Lucia Watson inside of Lucia's Restaurant / John Seymour-Anderson

This article was sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm and written by John Seymour-Anderson.

I arrived at Lucia’s Restaurant around 9:30 on a sunny late October morning. What awaited me was Lucia Watson’s patient (I brought my camera), real-time, side-by-side preparation of Braised Lamb Shanks with Roasted Root Vegetables and Pizza with Lamb Sausage, Feta, Tomato, and Herbs.

The pizza was the visual definition of the word “robust.” The lamb sausage — ground lamb seasoned in the pan — was heaped atop a handmade crust that had already been drizzled with olive oil and covered with a brilliant wheel of sliced red and gold local tomatoes. It was topped with crumbled feta cheese and sliced kalamata olives.

Lucia's Pizza with Lamb Sausage, Feta, Tomato, and Herbs — from start to finish (photos by John Seymour-Anderson)

Once out of the oven, Watson (pictured, top) sprinkled it with chopped fresh parsley and mint. The flavor was rich, multifaceted and delicate. “Delicate” was not exactly what it looked like, but I happily savored the incongruity! On the lamb shanks, the meat achieved the silky texture — and the broth from the braise acquired the glossiness — that Watson prizes in lamb, particularly the shipments that regularly make their way to the restaurant’s kitchen from Shepherd Song Farm. Both were suffused with subtle flavor.

Our entire interview and both recipes appear on the Shepherd Song Farm website. Click the link (bottom of this page) for the interview — from her recollections of her mother’s kitchen to musings about the versatility of lamb chops and her long-time appreciation for the partnership of local farmers. Over the past 26 years, Watson has succeeded in blending together those and other sensibilities and gifts to create a Midwestern dining destination, one that brings together local, sustainably raised ingredients and inspired classic cooking.

Lucia's Braised Lamb Shanks with Roasted Root Vegetables — from start to finish (photos by John Seymour-Anderson)

JOHN SEYMOUR-ANDERSON: And how about the first lamb that you remember cooking? Was that at home?

LUCIA WATSON: It was actually, it was home when I was little. I cooked a lot when I was little, and I really wanted to make lamb shanks, oddly. So my Mom went and bought them, and we made them, and I just loved them. I’ve always loved them.

JS: Can you think of a preparation of lamb that you’ve experienced or know about that is about as unique as you can imagine— unusual?

LW: I think some of the things that Indian cooking does with lamb are pretty unique, like putting it into certain doughs, like fried breads or things like that. They are pretty interesting and delicious. And then serving those with like a yogurt cilantro dip or something like that.

JS: It sounds like the consistency of the meat and the portions and the cutting is good, then?

LORI [Lucia’s staff person in charge of purchasing]: Shepherd Song is always able to provide whatever we want, or some fantastic alternative — when we need it, you know. And then, I think there is the consistency, like you said, which is really important. When we get chops, we know that every chop is going to be exactly what we need.

For more of our wide-ranging, illuminating conversation, read the whole interview.