Sunday, 16 September 2012

Deconstructed lamb shanks

I love lamb shanks - lovely comforting winter food, cooked long and slow to deliver flavour-filled tender lamb.  However, I find a plate with a whole lamb shank a rather daunting prospect - almost too much to eat, as well as logistically challenging.  So I've taken to deconstructing them, and either serving them traditionally (with mashed potato) or re-invented as an Italian dish [recipe here].
Deconstructed lamb shanks
Serves 6-10, depending on the size of the appetites

6 lamb shanks (or a mix of lamb shanks and lamb knuckles)
Spiced flour – ½ C flour with selected spices added – could be 1 tbsp paprika plus salt and pepper, or Moroccan style, Cajun style, whatever you feel like
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 C red or white wine
1 C beef or lamb stock
1 tin tomatoes
Garlic – to taste, I usually go with about 6 cloves, sliced
Thyme, about 1 tbsp roughly chopped leaves (although if the prospect of de-stemming the little devils is too much, I just throw a handful of thyme in and fish the stalks out later)
Rosemary, about 1 tbsp roughly chopped leaves

You can see that this is a cooking frenzy day - lamb shanks in the background, blade steak in the foreground.

Toss the lamb shanks in spiced flour.  Heat a large saucepan and brown the lamb shanks in olive oil.
Place the browned shanks in the cooking dish, along with the thyme and rosemary.

Add another ½ tbsp. of oil to the pan, and cook the onion until just softened.  Add the carrot and celery and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. 
Add the sliced garlic and cook until the smell hits you.  Add the wine and allow to bubble ferociously for about 1 minute, before adding the tomatoes and stock.  Heat through and pour over the lamb shanks.
The shanks can be cooked in a slow cooker (4 hours on high), or in a covered dish in the oven (2 hours, 160 C).  Turn once during cooking.  At the end of the cooking time, the meat should be coming off the bone, but not cooked to the stage where they can be cut with a spoon – they will be getting some more cooking after deconstruction…
Cool.  Then prepare for some mess… Take each shank out of the sauce and remove the meat from the bone, cutting into rough chunks.  Combine with the sauce.  At this stage, you can put into the dish for final cooking and serving, or it will happily go into the freezer.  I split it in two, one to eat and one to keep.
For a traditional lamb shank dinner, reheat at 150 C for 1 hour.  Taste and adjust for seasoning – I will usually add a good tablespoon of red currant jelly, the juice of a lemon (to counter some of the richness) and some salt and pepper at this stage.
Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and just-cooked green vegetables.


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