When it comes to protein at the dinner table, my family tends to eat chicken and fish more than anything else. We enjoy something in the beef category about once a week, and the same goes for pork. Tofu also makes the cut weekly, whether in spring rolls or a stir-fry, to keep things balanced.
This week I decided to branch out from my more regular options and pick up some meaty lamb shanks from the Jimenez Family Farm of Santa Ynez. It had been quite some time since enjoying lamb, so I was quite excited to prepare a dish.
Lamb is the meat of a young sheep, which can yield a nice tender texture and delivers a distinct flavor, which may take a little getting used to for some. I find the naturally grassy flavor quite pleasing, with subtle notes of smokiness throughout. The lambs’ diet can greatly impact the overall strength of the flavor, with true grass-fed lamb yielding the most robust taste.
Just like beef and pork, you can find a wide range of cuts at the local farmers’ markets. From legs and ribs to loin and shoulder, the Jimenez Family Farm is regularly stocked with a diverse selection.
Preparation techniques will vary depending on the cut you select. With these meaty lamb shanks on hand this week, I decided to do a low and slow method for cooking my meat. The result was a very tender product, infused with garlic, herbs, carrots, tomatoes and onions.
This dish can be done in a slow-cooker (about 4 hours on high), in a Dutch oven or in a pot simmered on the stovetop. This week I prepared this dish in the Dutch oven.
Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks
2 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each).
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced small.
2 large celery ribs, diced small.
1 large yellow or white onion, diced small.
6-8 large garlic cloves, sliced thin.
1 inch piece ginger root, skin discarded, grated.
2 springs rosemary.
1 bay leaves.
2 tablespoons tomato paste.
1 cup red wine.
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used Roma style).
2 cups lamb, beef or vegetable broth.
1 teaspoon red chili flakes.
Salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place the Dutch oven over a medium high heat burner. Coat the lamb shanks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, rubbing to evenly coat the meat. Then sear off the meat until well browned on each side. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the same pot and sauté carrots, onions, celery, garlic and ginger root until soft and caramelized. Add the tomato paste and mix into the vegetables, followed by the rosemary, bay leaf, wine, broth and diced tomatoes. Mix well as it comes to a boil, then turn off heat, add the lamb shanks, cover and place in the oven.
Cook for about 2 1/2 – 3 hours, or until lamb is fork tender. This is excellent when served over mashed potatoes or rice, with a side of wilted spinach or chard.
Yield: Serves 4.