Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lamb shanks

It's dark, wet and miserable outside. And, strangely for the middle of a Queensland summer, a little cold. Even more strangely, since I have never cooked them before, my thoughts turned to lamb shanks. And soup. Good winter food. Half an hour later I had the ingredients for tuscan soup from Giuliano Hazan's Every Night Italian and his braised lamb shanks from his How to Cook Italian.

I don't think Marcella gives a lamb shank recipe, at least in her earlier books. I recall her saying something about how Italian lamb shanks are too small to create the dish we know as braised lamb shanks.

The usual suspects were at work in the lamb shank recipe: garlic, browning, carrots, herbs, onion and tomato. The only thing that was a surprise was how little tomato is involved. I guess I am more used to much more sauce when I see this dish.... at aussie pubs.

As usual an absolute highlight was cooking off the alcohol in the white wine. I'm not sure if this a loophole to my year off the sauce or just a simple pleasure.

Once the shanks were on I had to think about the soup. I had run out of steam for the full soup production, and time, so I had to look at what else I had bought at the vege shop. I had 2 potatoes and immediately thought of Alice Waters superb potato gratin from her Art of Simple Food.

I peeled and cut the first potato. It was rotten. Luckily, the other was not, and with the aid of garlic, milk and butter I was able to throw together a little gratin and whack it in the oven.

Meanwhile, the shanks were going to plan, except they got a little dry towards the end and I had to splash in some water, as suggested.

I wasn't sure how long the shanks should cook. 2 hours or until tender, was the suggestion. Shanks in a pub (my only reference) are always fall off the bone. My shanks weren't close to that when I took them off, but they were tender.

Everything timed nicely with the gratin, and that and the shanks were served up with some crusty bread.

The sauce was...... delicious. I would expect nothing less from a braised Hazan recipe. The first shank I tried was a little disappointing. The second (yes I tried a second - they were pretty small) had much more meat on it and was much more rewarding.

So in all a success, but dependent on the quality of the shanks, not surprisingly. I thought I had some good ones, but 2 of the 4 were much better than the others. It would not have been great for half of the diners to have a shitty shank.

The gratin complemented it superbly. Do google it.

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