Everyday Gourmet2/12/09

The lamb shank redemption

Feb. 12, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Valentine’s dinner traditionally means Ossobuco — a special treat of lovingly braised veal (the perfect deep winter comfort food) to share with my Sweetie. Alas, this holiday I’m finding veal shank outrageously expensive, so I’ve turned my culinary affections — and pocketbook — toward the less comely, but equally tasty, lamb shank.

After purchasing my booty, I checked in with the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver, for tips on preparing lamb shank. In his book, “Cook With Jamie,” Chef shares a brilliant and startlingly simple method for preparing lamb shanks with melt-in-your-mouth results.

As far as the final presentation goes, use your own aesthetic judgment. To the uninitiated, a serving of lamb shank can be downright jaw dropping; the sheer volume of the portion is at once amazing and revolting. Courage, chefs! The meat slips off the bone easily; I suggest piling a heap of the tender braised lamb on a serving platter, lather on the buttery veggies and juices from the cooking foil, and frame it all with bunches of fresh rosemary. Sides of creamy mashed potato and steamed broccoli are perfect partners. One lamb shank easily feeds two, but you’ll want to prepare a few extra for enriching a lusty ragù or barley mushroom soup — the lamb is that good.

Lamb shanks for lovers

(Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. For the shanks you’ll need: 4 lamb shanks; 2 leeks, cleaned and white part thinly sliced; 2 cups carrot, chopped; 12 cloves of garlic, peeled; 1 medium onion, chopped; 4 springs of fresh thyme; 1 cup white wine.

Prep 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary by removing the leaves. Mash leaves with 4 ounces of soft butter and some kosher salt and fresh pepper. With a small knife, start at the base of each shank and slit between the meat and the bone upward, about 2 inches, to form a small pocket. Push equal amounts of butter into each of the four pockets.

Tear 4 sheets of heavy-duty foil, each 20” in length, and fold each piece in half. Divide the garlic and vegetables evenly between them, making a pile in the middle of each square. Rub each shank with olive oil, season with kosher salt and fresh pepper, and place one in the middle of each pile. Carefully gather the foil around the shank to the top of the bone and add a swig of white wine and a thyme stem before sealing tightly. This is actually kind of fun to prep together, even a day or two ahead. Cook for 2.5 hours or until the meat is as tender to the lip as a first kiss.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.