In almost every country you can find dishes popular amongst the lower social classes which are based on ingredients the dominant elite refuses to eat. One of these, found in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, is a stew prepared with lamb vertebral column (spine) and potatoes. You won’t find the main ingredient (lamb spine) for sale in any butcher shop around, rather, you must have a farmer as friend. As I’ve told you before (see Sunday lunch) the father of my daughter in law, Francisco, is a typical Brazilian “gaucho“, growing cattle and sheep on his farm. He is the one responsible for putting such fine and rare ingredient on my hands.
The first step is separating the vertebrae one by one. The final result reminds the traditional ox tail preparation.
Then, sauté some diced onions, garlic and fresh red pepper with olive oil (the original recipe asks for pork fat) in a cast iron pan.
Add the lamb spine, diced tomatoes, olives, parsley and salt to taste. Pour in half a bottle of red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon) and let the fire do the rest. Let it simmer for about 1,5 h. Check the water, don’t let it dry. Add some potatoes (I cut them in large slices) and let them cook until tender.
This is another strong winter dish, full of fat and energy to keep men working in the cold pampas of Rio Grande do Sul.