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Published December 29, 2010, 12:00 AM

Halgrimson: For the love of lamb shanks

Long, slow cooking the key to preparing dish
Years ago, when I was learning to cook, I read about lamb shanks in a magazine and the recipe took my fancy.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

Years ago, when I was learning to cook, I read about lamb shanks in a magazine and the recipe took my fancy.

The shank – or front leg – meat is less than tender and calls for long cooking to render the connective tissue soft enough to eat. When cooked properly, the shank makes a tasty dish. Long, slow cooking is the ticket.

So, to cook lamb shanks effectively, I also learned about braising, a method of cooking in which either meat or vegetables are browned in fat and then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of stock, wine or water, or a combination of the three. This may be done on top of the stove if a heavy pan is used, or it may be done in the oven.

The cover of the pan has to fit tightly, and the dish must be checked often to see that it does not dry out.

Braised Lamb Shanks is a one-pot meal that’s good on a cold winter’s night. In the following recipe, I sometimes omit the potatoes and add a 15-ounce can of drained cannellini beans. I’ve also skipped the carrots and substituted wedges of a fennel bulb.

For a long time, I did not see lamb shanks at the market. Like ox tails, they were few and far between. But now, at least, the lamb shanks have reappeared, and I shall try to locate some oxtails. I am very fond of ox tails, too.

Braised Lamb Shanks

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, mashed with a little salt

1/4 cup flour

2 lamb shanks

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup beef broth

1 can (28 ounces) crushed Roma tomatoes

4 strips orange zest

4 small red potatoes

2 large carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot and add onions and garlic. Cook on low, stirring until onions are translucent. Turn heat to medium, dredge shanks in flour and brown them. Add wine, beef broth and tomatoes to lamb. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring from time to time.

Add orange zest, potatoes and carrots. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer covered until vegetables are tender, about 1/2 hour.

Add rosemary and correct seasoning. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and serve lamb and vegetables with sauce on the side. Makes generous servings for 2.

Source: “The Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Readers can reach Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com