March 2020 will be one for the history books. Three quarters of Americans are stuck at home and the world has been turned upside down. If there is a bright side, it’s that everyone seems to been cooking at home!
Mark and I have faced a few particular challenges that have made this time even more bizarre for us. I had much-needed back surgery to resolve pain in my legs. The very next day, Mark came down with what he thought was a bad cold and then as I was recovering from my surgery, I got the same thing. And you guessed it: we both had COVID-19. Mark tested positive so there’s no doubt about it. We have both recovered from the major symptoms but remain exhausted.
So on Sunday March 29th, a month late, we celebrated the 16th anniversary of our having met. It’s a funny anniversary because February 29th comes around only once every 4 years. We think of it as the 16th anniversary, but also the 4th anniversary of the day we met–since 2020 was only the fourth February 29th since then.
In any case, to celebrate I made one of my go to celebration meals – braised lamb shanks. This is a great set-it-and-forget-it meal. Once you have it the oven, there’s little work to do. Fortunately for us, our local butcher Huntington Meats is still open and they have terrific Colorado lamb which is less grassy than the New Zealand product. I topped off the lamb with a dollop of fresh prepared horseradish from Magee’s Kitchen. Both of these stores can be found at the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles.
So during this crazy time, make this wonderful special treat for your loved one on a special evening. Serve over creamy polenta, mashed potatoes or a parsnip puree and top with some fresh grated horseradish. And of course, share a wonderful bottle of full-bodied red wine! 🍷Print
This is one of my go-to recipes for special occasions. You can make it a day in advance, cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just remove it from the refrigerator, let come to room temp and reheat on the stove.
The leftover braising liquid is an excellent base for making tomato sauce for pasta. Pick out the herbs, then just add crushed tomatoes or tomato paste, cook down, and season to your taste. You’ll have a perfect pasta sauce.
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 medium onion
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 lamb shanks (they are not cross-cut like veal shanks – it’s the whole bottom part of the leg) – about 2 to 2 1/4 lbs total
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 6-oz can good quality tomato paste
- 1 bottle full-bodied Italian red wine (inexpensive wine is OK and recommended)
- Small bunch of herbs including fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley and 2 bay leaves tied with kitchen string
- Peel the carrots and onion and trim their ends. Slice into a medium dice and set aside in a bowl.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
- Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and heat till shimmering. Very liberally salt and pepper the lamb shanks all over and place in the pot to brown. Continue to rotate the lamb with a pair of kitchen tongs until a deep crust forms on the shanks. Because of the shape of the shanks, you won’t be able to brown every part of the surface. Remove to a bowl and let the juices collect.
- Lower the heat under the pot to medium and add the diced carrots, celery and onion. Add a dash of salt and stir. Cover the pot and let the vegetables release their liquids for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and frequently stir the vegetables until they are deep golden brown. This can take 20-30 minutes. If they begin to burn, lower the heat.
- Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan. Add the tomato paste to the center of the pot and slowly cook and stir the paste until it turns a deep rich color – about 5 minutes. Stir the vegetables with the tomato paste and then add the smashed garlic cloves and the bundle of herbs.
- Add the seared lamb shanks and their collected juices and the bottle of red wine. Add enough water so the lamb is covered. On the stove, cover with a lid and raise heat to high until the liquid is very hot.
- Place the Dutch oven in the oven. The entire cooking process will take 2 1/2 – 3 hours. At the midpoint, remove the Dutch oven from the oven, check the pot and flip over the shanks. Add enough water to again cover. Cover with the lid and place on the stove on high heat until the liquid is very hot. Place back in the oven until the shanks are super-tender and the meat is falling off the bone.
- Lift the lamb from the braising liquid and serve over a bed of mashed potatoes, creamy polenta or parsnip puree. Top with a little horseradish if you’d like.
- Dutch oven large enough to hold the lamb shanks snugly