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Lamb Shanks with Vegetables and a Mint Gremolata

         Confession time:  I made this dish just as Spring was arriving. But by the time I got around to writing up the post, Spring had sprung and with it temperatures that suggested getting out of the heat and out of the kitchen.   But now that Fall is making it’s inevitable comeback, I revisited this dish.   And it has a lot to recommend it. Not the least of which is the classic combination of mint and lamb.  In this case, the mint forms the basis for a “gremolata”, a garnish usually associated with Osso Buco.  The early spring vegetables used here—the tiny baby potatoes and sugar snap peas–have become year round staples in our supermarket.  You can be forgiven for using trimmed full-sized carrots.  In point of fact, I did in the original recipe.   And if you’re a lamb fan who, due to price, has had to curb your appetite, this is a budget friendly way to enjoy the protein. In fact, the shank is likely the least expensive of all cuts of lamb.


New Zealand where the sheep outnumber
humans by 20 to 1.

 The lamb shank is the bottom part of the leg of lamb.  It’s almost always removed from the upper portion.  The meat is much tougher than the rest of the leg and that’s why braising low and slow is the way to go.  But don’t be put off by talk of toughness.  Braising this cut leaves you with meat that is soft and unctuous.  And it’s very easy to cook as long as you take your time.  Today’s lamb is often associated with Australia and New Zealand and a good deal of what’s on offer in the US is from those two prolific lamb countries. New Zealand famously has 20 sheep for every person.  But like both Australia and New Zealand, lamb has been a staple of the English-speaking world’s diet for centuries.  The shank however only starts appearing in recipes, other than ones for stock, around the time of World War I.  While I can’t be sure, rationing may have cajoled cooks into discovering how to cook the shank right. 

The recipe is from Bon Appetit.  It’s the handiwork of Joanne Weir who is a San Francisco based “cookbook author, chef, cooking teacher and television personality”, according to her bio.  I got wildly jealous reading that Joanne conducts “Culinary Journeys” to everywhere from Tuscany to North Africa.  How she fits this into a schedule that also includes a TV series called “Joanne Weir’s Cooking Confidence” and cooking courses in her kitchen in San Francisco is a bit daunting.  Her recipe for Lamb Shanks is not.  It’s very straight forward. And talk about popular.  On www.epicurious.com 100 percent of the people who made it would make it again.  All you need is some time, about 3 hours.  That makes it fall into the category of one of those rainy afternoon dishes that’s served right away.  Or, as is the case with so many great braises, it’s even better the second day.  Here’s the recipe:

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