photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki
Co-op Creamery Neighborhood Cafe, owned and operated by Seward Community Co-op (and a Best New Restaurant according to our dining team), opened in August, and executive chef Lucas Almendinger has crafted a menu showcasing the same commitment to local, seasonal, and sustainably grown food the Co-op has. This lamb reuben, for instance: the meat lovingly brined and braised, served atop locally baked bread. It tastes really good and you can feel good about eating it.
The lamb is done in large batches—perfect for parties! But will need to plan ahead. "This isn't, 'Oh, I want a lamb reuben now, I’m just going to go pick up the stuff at the store,'" says Almendinger. The lamb needs to brine for two days before it's braised, and once it's in the oven it'll take about 3 1/2 hours to cook.
Tom Petty would agree, the waiting is the hardest part, but the rewards are delicious—and plenty. "You want to find the biggest lamb shoulder you can and make it in the biggest pot you can," Almendinger explains. A 2- to 3-lb. lamb shoulder will give you enough meat for eight to 12 sandwiches, maybe more. "The lamb is pretty versatile once it’s done," Almendinger adds. "You could even make a hash with it the next day."
While such a large-batch, time-intensive recipe can seem daunting, don't be intimidated! The hands-on steps are simple and much of it is passive—letting the lamb brine in the fridge or patiently braising it. "Don’t be afraid to work with it," Almendinger says. "The lamb is better overdone than underdone, so cook it longer if needed. It should be fork tender."
The rest is just assembling sandwiches, and we bet you're already a pro at that.
Shopping pro-tips: You can find everything you need to make this gloriously messy, beautifully briny sammie at Seward Co-op—it's your one-stop reuben shop! Here's what the Co-Op and Almendinger recommend:
• Brine and rub spices: Hit up the bulk aisle for whole spices and grind ’em yourself.
• Bread: Saint Agnes Baking Co.'s pumpernickel rye is perfect.
• Lamb: Almendinger says lamb is somewhat seasonal, so providers may vary, but Hutchinson-basedThe Lamb Shoppe is always a sure bet. "Just get the most local meat you can," he says.
• Thousand Island: Co-op Creamery does a version that's basically their house aioli mixed with a little house-made ketchup and pickles. Almendinger says you can tweak that basic formula at home. "Just buy a good mayo, some nice ketchup and really good pickles and it'll make a huge difference. Play around with the Thousand Island—put horseradish in it to bump up the heat level." Seward Co-Op recommends using Sir Kensington's ketchup, Mrs. Clark's mayo and Bubbies pickles.
• Cheese: Go with your favorite swiss (Almendinger uses baby swiss).
• Sauerkraut: This ingredient can make or break a reuben. Seward recommends local kraut from either South Minneapolis-based Fierce Ferments or Wisconsin-based Angelica's Garden.
Co-Op Creamery Cafe's Lamb Reuben from Co-Op Creamery Cafe and Seward Co-Op
Makes 8 - 12 sandwiches
To brine the lamb:
1/4 tsp. whole cloves
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
3/4 tsp. whole cardamom
1 1/4 tsp. whole black pepper
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (or grated from whole)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (or grate from whole stick)
4 quarts water
6 Tbsp. kosher salt
2-3 lb. lamb shoulder
To prepare the lamb:
Brined lamb shoulder
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. whole cardamom
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. whole black pepper
2 tsp. cumin seeds
3 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (or grate from whole stick)
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (or grate from 1 whole)
1 3/4 cups chopped onion
1 2/3 cups chopped fennel
2 2/3 cups chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped garlic
3 cups red wine
At least 1 cup stock (lamb, chicken, beef or vegetable)
• Grind all spices except cinnamon and nutmeg. If using whole cinnamon and nutmeg, grate those.
• Mix all spices together. Combine spices, water, and salt in a large pot and heat until salt is dissolved.
• Cool brine. Put lamb inside brining bag or large Ziploc bag and add brine; submerge lamb completely (if it won't submerge, weight it with a plate), tie or close bag and place inside a large bowl in the refrigerator for two days.
• Flip the lamb over and re-submerge after the first 24 hours.
• Toast spices (except cinnamon and nutmeg) over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan a few minutes until fragrant. If using whole cinnamon and nutmeg, grate those and set aside.
• Grind the toasted spices. Mix all spices together, including cinnamon and nutmeg.
• Remove lamb from brine and pat dry. Rub with spice mixture until lamb is covered (you might have extra).
• Heat a thin coating of a high smoke point oil (like vegetable or canola) in a large oven-safe baking pan/pot/Dutch oven over high heat. Once oil is hot, add lamb shoulder and sear on all sides until browned. Set lamb aside.
• Heat oven to 325°. Add carrots, onions, garlic and fennel to the Dutch oven, stirring as they're added. When the vegetables begin to caramelize, add the wine and reduce the mixture by 1/4.
• Add enough stock to cover the lamb. Bring mixture to a boil. Place the lamb back into the Dutch oven, turn down heat and simmer 5 minutes.
• Cover and braise at 325° about 3 1/2 hours, until falling apart and fork-tender.
To prepare the sandwiches:
• Layer Thousand Island, sauerkraut and baby swiss on a slice of pumpernickel rye. Top with sliced braised lamb and another slice of bread.
+ PAIRINGS FROM SURDYK'S
We asked the experts at Surdyk’s for beverages to complement this lamb reuben. Here’s what they recommend:
Pairing #1: Domaine de la Mordoree Cotes-du-Rhone
A classic Rhone Valley blend that offers red and black fruit, Provence herbs and plush texture.
Pairing #2: Bent Paddle Venture Pilsener
A Minnesota favorite, this pilsener complements the reuben's salty and sour flavors. German hops create a spicy, dry finish that cuts the flavors. It finishes clean and crisp, just in time for another bite.
Your weekly access to tips and tastemakers to make life at home the best. From the editors of mspmag.com and experts at Surdyk's.