A couple of weeks ago, on a wintry day, my thoughts turned, as they so often do, to lamb. Something stewish, for sure, but nothing was calling to me. I was standing in front of the meat counter, contemplating the stewing lamb, when shanks caught my eye. I'd never made them before, which made the prospect enticing. After grilling the counterman on serving size, I settled on two for two. Mercifully, this exchange was early in the day, as my blithe ignorance might otherwise have had me serving dinner just in time for Craig Ferguson's opening monologue.
I learned soon after I got home and hit the cookbooks that there is no such thing as a recipe for two lamb shanks. The smallest grouping I ran across was four, so some mathematical improvisation would be required. Not a great strength in this kitchen.
Purchased: two lamb shanks, 28 ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, red wine
On hand: olive oil, chicken stock, garlic, shallot, onion, spices
Season shanks. Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to a large, heavy pot. Over medium-high heat, brown the shanks on all sides. Remove from pot. While shanks are browning, chop a large onion, a large shallot, and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add a tiny bit of cinnamon, and maybe a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper. Maybe a pinch of cumin. It's yours now, not mine.
This is point at which I ran off the rails: Each and every recipe I consulted called for mingy, stingy amounts of liquid. I like my sauce with sauce, with extra sauce on the side. So, instead of half a can of tomatoes for four shanks, I used a whole can for two, plus a brimming cupful of wine, and a half-cup of chicken stock., brought it to a simmer, then returned the shanks along with any juices on the plate, to the pot. Lowering the heat, I clamped on the lid, and strolled off, returning only to give the shanks a turn every half hour or so, for the next hour and a half. The timing is by no means exact; the shanks are done when the meat is fork-tender, and almost dripping from the bone. I degreased the sauce a bit by layering some paper towels on top, and letting them soak up the excess for less than a minute. There was a lot of sauce. Even with generous pools on our plates, there was enough for another meal, albeit without shanks. The extra went into the freezer, where it lay in wait, haunting my dreams for some days to come.
Served the shanks over polenta, with sauteed zucchini on the side. Sprinkle with incredibly poorly chopped parsley.
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