Thursday, December 16, 2010


Anything but turkey.

I’ve been doing a lot of recipe testing this week (for that book I’m collaborating on) so it’s been a bit like Thanksgiving around here. Translated, that means a lot of poultry, as in a great big roasted turkey. Now this would be great if I still had a houseful of kids but since it’s only Henry and me …. well not so much. As good as this recipe (with its accompanying gravy) was, I’m pretty sick of the stuff. Suffice it to say, I will not be making turkey on Christmas Day.

Yesterday I decided that I couldn’t face it once again for dinner. I hit the gym, then stopped at Whole Paycheck Foods on the way home to pick up something for dinner. It was cold, the streets were supposed to ice up later and something braised and comforting was on my radar screen. I was also feeling virtuous (since I had worked out), so I figured red meat or an extra fat gram or two wouldn’t kill me.

I ended up with lamb shanks. They didn’t break the bank and I knew they would fill the house with a lovely smell and a savory aroma. It was early enough in the day that I could set them on the stove and slowly cook them for a few hours until they were meltingly tender and infused with flavor.

Once home, I thought about unearthing a recipe, but I was too lazy. I just winged it. Here is the result, and it was delicious.  I served it on a lovely bed of cannellini beans, lightly tossed with good extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and chopped rosemary, then seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.


4 lamb shanks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, cut into small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, cut into small dice
1 stalk celery, cut into small dice
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes (San Marzanos preferred)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 fresh bay leaf
2 cups beef stock
½ cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Pat lamb shanks dry. Heat oil in a large sauté pan or dutch oven and add shanks. Brown on both sides until golden. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-high, add diced onion to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic, carrot and celery and continue to cook until vegetables are just tender, another five minutes or so.

Pour wine into pan and deglaze over high heat. Stir in tomato paste and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil then add vinegar and herbs. Add stock and browned lamb shanks. Season with salt and pepper. Once mixture boils, reduce heat, cover and simmer over very low heat for about three hours, or until meat is very tender and almost falling off the bones.

Just before serving, remove herb stems and stir in the Kalamata olives. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve the lamb shanks over a bed of white beans, mashed potatoes or polenta, topped with plenty of the sauce and a sprinkling of chopped Italian parsley. A bottle of good red wine served with this wouldn’t be a bad thing either!

Serves 4

Note: I hate it when I look at a cookbook and the photos don't match the description of the recipe.  Like maybe they have added a garnish or something to make it look really good and there is no mention of it in the directions.  It really pisses me off.  So in the interest of full disclosure, I made this with only two lamb shanks as pictured (I mean, only two of us live in this house these days, right?)  Nonetheless, the proportions I gave you in this recipe are enough for four shanks. 

Henry, I hope you like leftovers, because you get to eat this again tonight. At least it isn’t turkey!

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