About three weeks ago I shared a “wing it” version of the braised lamb shanks recipe I make often. And, I promised I’d share the original recipe, so here it is:
Braised Lamb Shanks
(with many thanks to Cooking Light, November 2008)
1 T minced fresh thyme ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 t salt 2 T finely chopped fresh mint
1 t minced fresh rosemary 1 T grated lemon rind
½ t freshly ground pepper 1 T minced garlic
4 (12 oz.) lamb shanks
1 T olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups red wine
¾ cup chicken broth
¾ cup beef broth
To prepare lamb, combine the first 4 ingredients; set aside 1 teaspoon herb mixture. Rub lamb evenly with remaining herb mixture. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add lamb to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove lamb from pan; keep warm. Add onion, carrot and garlic to pan; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Add wine and reserved 1 teaspoon herb mixture; bring to a boil. Cook until mixture is reduced to 2 cups (about 6 minutes). Add broths; bring to a boil. Cook until mixture is reduced to 1 ¾ cups (about 5 minutes). Return lamb to pan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 ½ hours or until lamb is tender, turning shanks occasionally.
To prepare gremolata, combine parsley and remaining ingredients.
Remove lamb and vegetables from pan with slotted spoon; keep warm. Place a large zip-top plastic bag inside an 8-cup glass measure or bowl. Pour broth mixture into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top_. Seal bag and carefully snip off a bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into pan, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Bring broth mixture to a boil; cook until reduced to 2 cups and thickened (about 12 minutes). Spoon sauce over lamb and vegetables; top with gremolata.
I’d like to add a few comments, comparing the two recipes:
The formal recipe has several more ingredients than my “wing it” version because I didn’t have the fresh herbs or the chicken broth … not that I couldn’t actually get them … I just didn’t have them on hand, and because I was on vacation I didn’t want to add any extra supplies to our cupboards or fridge. It was really that simple, except for the facts that I wasn’t sure what ingredients I needed and, more importantly, actually I absolutely love the challenge of cooking with what I have on hand. But this is old news to you, I am sure.
Comparing the two recipes, the most important ingredients for this dish is the mirepoix, a fancy name for the combination of diced celery, carrots and onion (and, in my opinion, should also include garlic), traditionally put together with 2 parts onion/1 part carrots/1 part celery … and, the more garlic, the better. Everything else is about refining flavor.
So – my point? Don’t be reluctant to make a dish you love because you don’t have every single teaspoon of this or cup of that (of course, this might not really apply to baking, because it is quantity driven, almost chemical in nature). The lamb shanks I made in Hawaii, by memory, with far fewer ingredients was really delicious, and the bones were licked clean, just as they are when I make the original recipe.
Will I make the recipe from my trusty blue binder again? Of course, I will. But, I am not afraid to do what my grandmother was famous for doing … cooking from memory and cooking from that intuitively nurturing place in all of us, the heart.
Go for it. Be courageous, be creative in your cooking!
Eat well. Be happy.