Soul-satisfying comfort food at its best, braised lamb shanks will fill every room in your house with an amazing aroma. The fresh gremolata garnish cuts the richness of this hearty but not heavy dish. (4 servings)
Extra virgin olive oil
4 lamb shanks about 1 ¼ lbs. each
Freshly ground black pepper
3 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 yellow onions cut into a 1-inch dice
3 celery ribs, cut into a1/2-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
1 12-oz. can tomato paste
2 cups full-bodied red wine
2 T finely chopped rosemary leaves
10-12 thyme branches with leaves tied together
3 to 4 cups water
3 Turkish bay leaves
Gremolata (recipe follows)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place 3 T olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Heat to almost smoking.
3. Season shanks generously with salt and pepper. Brown well on all sides.
4. Finely chop the carrots, onions, celery and garlic in a food processor until they become a coarse paste. Remove and set aside.
5. Remove shanks from the pan to a rimmed baking sheet. Discard excess fat from pan.
6. Add a little more oil to pan and add the vegetable paste. Sauté until it is very brown and fragrant, about 20 minutes, but do not let burn. Take your time with this step since this is where the brown color and flavor is developed.
7. Add tomato paste and brown for another 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, chopped rosemary and bundle of thyme. Stir frequently and cook until the wine has reduced by half.
8. Add the shanks back to the pan and pour in 3 to 4 cups of water. If the shanks are not submerged, add a little more water.
9. Add the bay leaves, cover and place in the preheated oven. The cooking time will be 2 ½ to 3 hours. Turn the shanks about halfway through the cooking time. Check every 45 minutes or so to see if the liquid has reduced too much and add more water if needed. Skim fat off surface as you go.
10. When the shanks are done, the meat should be falling-off -the bone tender and richly flavorful. Remove and keep warm. The sauce can be boiled down to thicken. Transfer to serving plates and top with braising sauce and gremolata. Serve with barley risotto, polenta cakes or mashed potatoes, if desired.
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
¼ cup finely minced parsley leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T freshly grated horseradish
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to use.
(Adapted from recipe by Anne Burrell)
Taking It on the Lamb
by Victor Ribaudo
Some say lamb is an acquired taste. For me, it’s a necessity. There’s something so robust and earthy about the flavor and aroma – a quality that makes it a truly satisfying meal for me. And although I partake of it all year long, there’s really no more perfect time to enjoy the best of spring lamb than right now.
When I was just a lad, I would give a big cheer when lamb was on the menu. My grandmother, as most Italian women, included it in her Sunday dinner repertoire. Grandma would insert deep knife cuts all over the meaty portions of the leg, and stuff the holes with garlic, flat leaf parsley and sometimes chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. After anointing the lamb with extra virgin olive oil and a generous seasoning of salt and ground black pepper, she would roast it in the oven. My goodness, that was just perfect. If I recall correctly, she also surrounded the roast with potatoes and onions, which absorbed the juices and were just heaven.
That was my father’s mother, Santina. My mother’s mother, Caterina, was a big proponent of lamb as well. She always prepared dinner for us on Wednesdays. You see, my Mom worked and her mother came midweek to help out. Many of those glorious Wednesday evening meals included lamb chops in vermouth. Grandma would sear the lamb in hot oil, then sauté onions and garlic in the left over brown bits at the bottom of the pan. In went lots of vermouth to deglaze and then the chops were returned to pan. She covered that simmering gorgeousness and braised it until the meat was falling off the bone. Served with white rice, I just can’t express how wonderful that dish was. You must try it.
Now, I’ve described two very simple recipes that come from my youth. Lamb, however, is bold enough to stand up against more elaborate preparations. You’ll discover it in many a Middle Eastern dish, complemented by lots of cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and coriander. Indian and African cuisine as well. What I love about lamb in these gastronomic traditions is that you never lose the flavor of the meat. With all the spicy rubs and even curry sauces, you still taste lamb. Can’t say that about chicken. Even beef. No, lamb was made for these heady stew, kebab and meatball recipes.
Lamb makes for sort of a regal feast as well. Take the baby lamb chop. You’ll find it simply grilled or broiled at many a swanky cocktail party. A perfectly gentile finger food, I must say. Of course, there’s also the royal crown roast of lamb – ends frenched please! When I’m cooking to impress, I make it the centerpiece of the meal. I stuff the cavity with a mint scented rice pilaf. I don’t particularly care for mint jelly, though. Reminds me of chewing gum. But, hey, I place it on the table anyway. So many of my guests would be disappointed if I didn’t.
By the way, have you ever tried a lamb hamburger? Or perhaps a lamb meatloaf? Not as lofty as some of the above mentioned, but still good eats. This Italian even includes lamb chops with the meatballs and pork ribs in his meat sauce. Gives Sunday pasta extra depth, my aunt always said.
With Easter fast approaching for so many of us, think about serving a leg of lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic. Or Phyllis’ braised lamb shank (recipe above). Place it next to the baked ham, and see which goes faster. I’m taking bets on the lamb.
Recipe by Phyllis Kirigin
Photographer Bill Brady
Written by Victor Ribaudo
Food Stylist BrianPreston Campbell
Blog syndicated at the datingsymbol.com