(above– lamb shanks + orzo)
The first Friday of every month, I blog INA FRIDAYS (all Ina Garten recipes) with a great group of cooks. Scroll down to check out the list of blogs participating, then read up and cook some Ina this weekend! ♥♥♥
I’m a sucker for cold-weather meals. I barely live through summer with its rosé wine and grilled suppers. My heart was born to yearn for both red meat and red wine–perhaps because I’m a girl born and raised in Chicago where I breathed in the freezing wind off the lake and let it blow me all over the ice ponds where I cut my skating teeth. (above: my front yard yesterday)
So you can understand how I felt with a snow storm on the way, four meaty lamb shanks unthawing, and a big bottle of cab waiting on the table in the dining room. My friend Mary Pat, my son Sean, and my husband Dave were all put on notice:
There will be lamb. Be ready…
The day was planned around when the lamb needed to get into the oven. A day when the temperature, for the most part, was a sweet -6 Fahrenheit… (above and below: young females in our neighborhood herd)
I thought I was watching HER, but she was watching ME.
A day when I’d agreed to teach a lectionary class, arriving only to find I was the only one who’d braved the cold and put the quarters in the meter. A day when I needed to do laundry, pack for a wine-tasting trip to Paso Robles, clean house, go out to lunch with the hub, work the galleys for the book….and cook lamb shanks. If you’re a bit unsure about lamb shanks… what they are or how to cook them, here’s the deal: they’re pretty much like cooking a tiny pot roast on a big old bone. Whatever treatment you’ve given beef chuck roast or short ribs is probably going to work with lamb shanks. Since the meat is tough, it needs to be braised (cooked in liquid) and the braising liquid of choice is often wine, though it needn’t be. A stiff stout would work, as would broth, tomatoes, cider and water…whatever floats your shanks.
(below: raw lamb shanks)
And what is a lamb shank anyway?
A lamb shank is the portion of meat on the leg bone just below the knee.
- inexpensive — for lamb, anyway (loin chops, 2 per person, cost much more)
- wonderful for slow cooking and/or braising with root vegetables or in wine
- beautiful presentation — each person gets one
- leftovers make lovely stew
(above: lamb shanks with vegetables in a 5.5 quart sauté pan with lid just before putting in the oven)
So what about this beautiful dish perfect for a small (or not so small) party, but also great for a family meal with a bit leftover for tomorrow’s stew. There’s nothing not to love. The dish begins with a hot dutch oven where you brown the lamb shanks thoroughly. Out they come, and in go a great big heap of chopped vegetables…the usual suspects– though I added some parsnips in place of a couple of carrots. Cooking the vegetables down with rosemary and bay ..ah the smell!… the tomatoes, stock, and wine are poured in, and it’s all brought to a bubbly madness before the shanks are returned to their home, the lid goes on, and it’s all tucked away in a moderate oven for a couple of hours while you read the latest Louise Penny book (or the first, if you haven’t begun) or talk on the phone with your best friend in Saint Paul.
The table is set, the wine aired and poured, the salad* is made, and all you have to do it enjoy this meal with someone whose company you enjoy or you’d like to get to know better. You’ll remember it for a long while. And thank Ina!
Cook’s Notes: a. I cut the salt from four teaspoons to two and the fresh ground black pepper to from two to one. Instead, I added a good, healthy pinch (1/8 teaspoon) crushed red pepper. b. We each ate a lamb shank and copious amounts of orzo with vegetables; two had seconds on orzo. There was still enough orzo left for two for lunch the next day.
*For a salad, I sautéed about a cup and a half of grape tomatoes in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to which I’d added a hefty pinch each of kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and crushed red pepper. When the tomatoes began to soften, I poured them, along with the flavored oil, over 8 cups of salad greens that I had seasoned with a tiny bit of salt and pepper, along with the juice of one lemon. A quarter cup of crumbled blue cheese, sprinkled on top, was the coup de grâce!
Wine: Bordeaux is the accepted pairing for lamb–though I don’t always agree with that, but unless you are very rich indeed, you might not want to invest your vacation or your kids’ college money in it. Try, instead, a California Cabernet Sauvignon; check with your wine shop for a nod toward one both tasty and in your budget. A perhaps less expensive alternative might be an Argentinian Malbec. Whatever you choose, make it a big hearty red and enjoy it with your lamb and vegetables.
Dessert: Something light like a small custard or a tiny bowl of ice cream. A small digestif (an after-dinner drink) or a decaf cappuccino instead of dessert might be just the ticket. This is a filling meal.
ABOUT our INA….
A favorite interview question from Patricia Sheridan… and Ina’s answer:
Some people can identify flavors easily and you have said flavor is important to you. So was that ability something you developed or have you always had a sensitive palate?
I think I have always found that I am searching for flavor. In fact, I don’t think I’m a great cook. I think I’m a great taster. I know when something tastes right, and I know when it can be better. I just have in my head a flavor, you know, like the idiot savant thing [laughing]. But unlike major chefs who have worked in restaurants over the years, I can’t just throw things together and it will come out right. I am really looking for a flavor and a texture that I’ve got in my head. I do it in a very deliberate way in a recipe. Read more:
Want to read more Ina today??
- Alyce @ More Time at the Table
- Anna @ Cheese with Noodles
- Ansh @ Spice Roots
- Barbara @ Moveable Feasts
- Bhavna @ Just a Girl From AAmchi Mumbai..
- Chaya @ Bizzy Bakes
- Linda, @ Tumbleweed Contessa
- Mary @ The Egg Farm
- Minnie @ The Lady 8 Home
- Mireya @ My Healthy Eating Habits
- Patti @ Comfy Cuisine
- Peggy@ Pantry Revisited
- Rocky Mountain Woman @ Rocky Mountain Woman
- Veronica@ My Catholic Kitchen
if you liked this, you might like my:
Lamb Shanks on Gingered Rutabaga
|I like a pasta bowl for lamb shanks and sides…sit them up in the rutabagas to show them off. Click here for recipes: LAMB SHANKS ON GINGERED RUTABAGAS (INCLUDES A NEXT DAY LAMB STEW)|