I Like Lamb How About You?

            When my youngest son Avi was in 1st or 2nd grade (lo those many years ago) a teacher asked him, in the course of getting to know everyone in the class, what his favorite animal was. He happily said, “Oh, I like lambs”. When then prompted, the second time around the “getting to know you circle” as to his favorite food, his equally cheery reply was, of course, lamb. Sadly, not too many of his fellow 6 year olds found it as amusing as the teacher and I did.

Lamb is actually a very versatile and flavorful meat if cooked correctly. It can be stewed, grilled, sauteed, or roasted.  Lamb is meat from sheep less than 1 year old so the lamb you get in your in grocery stores is typically from a 5 to 12 months old sheep. The flavor of this typically domestically raised animal is quite mild. When buying lamb you want to look for a light pinkish color and it should be tender, yet firm to the touch.

            My son is still fond of lamb and if he had to choose one particular dish/cut of lamb that he prefers I would have to say it’s the lamb shank. Not to be confused with a leg of lamb a lamb shank comes from the bottom section of the front legs. They’re usually fairly inexpensive cut and are about the size of a turkey drumstick. Due to the slightly tougher nature of the cut the shank is most often prepared by braising it and then cooking in a liquid.

            The following recipes are a compilation of one’s I’ve made over the years and a few sent to me by readers, who like my son who love lamb.  

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions, sliced

2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
6 3/4- to 1-pound lamb shanks
flour
2 1/2 cups red wine
2 1/2 cups canned beef broth
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves

Preheat oven 375. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large Dutch oven over medium heat. Combine the sliced onions and the brown sugar and saute until the onions are brown, about 20 minutes. Mix in 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, mix to combine, cook for 1 minute and remove the mixture from the heat and set it aside. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper then dredge the lamb shanks with flour. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Cooking one or two at a time sear the outside of the shanks on both sides and then set them aside on a plate.  Add 1 cup of wine to the skillet and bring the mixture to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the mixture into pan with the cooked onion mixture. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups red wine, beef broth, tomato paste and 2 bay leaves to the onion mixture. Stir to make sure the tomato paste dissolves. Add the lamb shanks to the pan with the onion mixture, turning to coat with liquid. Cover the roasting pan with a lid or tightly with foil. Place in the preheated oven and after 30 to 40 minutes of cooking, turn the lamb shanks over and return the covered pan to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 and cook an additional hour or until the lamb shanks are tender. This can be made up to 2 days before you want to serve it and be reheated. You can remove the shanks from the liquid and boil it down to a thicker gravy consistency if you like. Serves 6.

ROSEMARY ROASTED LAMB SHANKS WITH POTATOES

2 lamb shanks
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary

salt and pepper
2 large onions, chopped finely
zest and juice of 1 orange
3 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup of beef stock  
6 potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon sliced green onions
 3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons of Parsley
2 tablespoons minced garlic

Season the lamb shanks with rosemary salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet and sear the lamb shanks on all sides. Remove the shanks to a plate and then add the onion to the pan. Cook the onion with the orange zest until the onion is browned. Add the wine, beef stock and the orange juice and bring the mixture to a simmer. Pour the onion mix in a heavy lidded roasting pan and add the lamb shanks. Cover and cook 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile boil the potatoes in water until they are soft. Drain and mash them. Add the butter, green onions, garlic and parsley to the mashed potatoes, mix to combine and salt and pepper to taste. To serve, scoop a mound of the potatoes onto the serving plate, place a lamb shank on top and spoon the juice from the pan on top. Serves 2. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

CROCK POT LAMB SHANKS

1 onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

4 lamb shanks, trimmed

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup red wine

Put the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf in a crock pot and stir to combine. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. In a large skillet heat the olive oil and add the shanks and brown on all sides. Place the lamb shanks in the crock pot. Pour the wine into the skillet and bring it to a simmer, stirring to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the wine mixture into the crock pot, cover and cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. Transfer the lamb shanks to a large serving dish.  Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and pour the liquid into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Pour some of the sauce over the shanks and serve the rest along side. Serves 4.

CRANBERRY LAMB SHANKS

2 tablespoons flour

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 lamb shanks

cooking spray

8 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 onions, sliced

1 cup red wine

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce

6 cups water

2 tablespoons beef bouillon

Mix together the flour, salt and pepper and place in a plastic resealable bag. Add the lamb shanks and toss to coat. In a large skillet heat the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the shanks and sear the outside. Remove the lamb and place them in the crock pot and then add the carrots to the lamb.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet if needed and then saute the onion until they are golden. Add the red wine, cranberry sauce, water and beef bouillon powder, whisking until everything is completely combined. Bring the mixture to the boil and then immediately remove it from the heat and pour it over the lamb shanks and carrots. Cook for at least 4 hours on high. Serves 6 to 8

Submitted by Nancy Aldridge Burr Ridge IL

HERBED LAMB SHANKS

6 tablespoons oil
6 lamb shanks
Flour for coating
Salt and pepper
1 large white onion
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups whole canned tomatoes, sliced
3 sprigs chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
3 sprigs chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
3sprigs chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
8 cups chicken stock

Heat the oil in a saute pan. Dredge the shanks in flour, shake off the excess, and then salt and pepper them. Brown the lamb in the oil. You may have to brown in batches. Once a shank has browned evenly, place it in the roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 350. Add about 4 more tablespoons oil to the pan, and over medium heat add the onions and garlic. Cook until soft. Then add the tomatoes, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and the chicken stock and let simmer for a few minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Pour the sauce over the lamb shanks, cover with aluminum foil, and put in the oven and cook for about 3 to 4 hours. Serves 6.

Submitted by Angela Coats NY, NY

BARLEY AND LAMB

2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 onions
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
4 tablespoons of olive oil
6 lamb shanks
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups of barley
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of white wine
1 bay leaf
a pinch of thyme

Preheat oven 325. In a skillet saute, in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, saute the onions until they are pale gold. Add the carrots, celery, garlic and parsley and cook for 2 minutes and then remove the vegetables from the pan and set them aside. Do not clean the pan. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Brown the lamb shanks on all side but don’t cook them. In a Dutch oven pan, heat remaining olive oil and add the barley. Cook, stirring constantly until the barley is golden. Add the chicken broth, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Mix to combine. Add to lamb shanks and the vegetables. Add more liquid (if necessary wine or water), to cover the barley barley. Bake in a for 2 to 2 1/2 hour until done. Serves 6 

MOROCCAN WILD RICE AND LAMB SHANKS
2 lamb shanks

3/4 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth

1 1/2 large carrots cut in 1/4 thick rounds

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 cup pitted dates, cut in half

1/2 cup dried apricots, cut in pieces

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups wild rice

4 1/2 cups water

Season the lamb with salt and cayenne pepper. In a deep skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in large stock pot with tight fitting lid over moderately high heat. Brown on all sides, transferring to a plate when done. Add remaining oil to the skillet and cook onion, stirring until softened. Stir in the water or stock and bring to a boil. Scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan before adding meat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the lamb is tender (about 1 1/2 hours).

While lamb is cooking, combine the wild rice, water and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil uncovered and then reduce heat to low and cover for 25 minutes, checking occasionally. At this point add the carrots and sweet potato to pot, and simmer until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Drain any excess liquid at this point. Add the ginger, cinnamon, dates and apricots, stirring occasionally. Let cook covered 5-10 minutes more on low heat and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, if needed. Serves 2. This recipe can be doubled or tripled

 Modified from a recipe from the California Lamb Council

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