Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cooking Lamb The Slow Way

The first time my boyfriend tried lamb Osso Bucco was at a restaurant called Vert in the Hollywood and Highland complex on Sunset Blvd. I remember the night clearly because we had only been dating for a few months and we were still learning about each other’s likes and dislikes in the food department. That evening I learned that a big “like” for him was lamb, and the delicious shank that Vert served up fit the bill perfectly. Unfortunately, the menu at Vert has changed since that memorable dinner date and the restaurant no longer offers this savory dish. So what’s a girl to do? Well, how about try cooking it herself? I reached for assistance in the form of my hand dandy slow cooker and one of my most used cookbooks, Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. I was happy to find several lamb shank recipes and even one that didn’t include garlic (my BF isn’t too crazy about the stuff). I think the most challenging part of preparing this dish was finding a store that carried lamb shanks. There were certainly plenty of legs of lamb, and lamb chops but the shanks were a little trickier to come by. I finally found my bounty at my third grocery store and happily bought 6 shanks, totaling about 5 pounds. I cooked the meat for an hour less than what was instructed because from previous experience, I’ve overcooked meat in my slow cooker before when I followed the directions exactly. The end result was a flavorful and tender lamb with meat falling off the bone. The carrots also cooked up perfectly in the pot and took on a lot of the juiciness from the lamb as well. I think this dish would have been wonderful with some plain white rice or even a hearty thick slice of bread to mop up the juices. Needless to say, my boyfriend enjoyed his meal and I’m pretty confident he doesn’t miss Vert’s version of lamb shanks one bit!

Lamb Shanks With White Wine (adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook): Ingredients:
4-6 lamb shanks (depending on size but totalling about 5 pounds), trimmed of visible fat
1/2 cup AP flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium size onion
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken or beef broth as needed
8 large carrots, cut into thick slices
salt and pepper to taste

1. Using the tip of a knife, pierce the lamb shanks several times. On a large cookie baking pan or platter, roll the shanks in the flour to coat completely. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and brown the shanks on all sides, 5-7 minutes in all. I had to do this in batches because my skillet wasn't large enough. As they brown, transfer the shanks to the slow cooker. Add the onion to the skillet and cook until lightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan; pour the onions and wine into the cooker. Add enough broth to cover the lamb and lightly season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 3 and 1/2 hours.
2. Add the carrots, cover and continue cooking on LOW until the lamb is very tender when pierced with a fork and falling off the bone; this is approximately another 3-4 hours depending on your slow cooker.
3. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

Notes: Use a medium or large round or oval cooker; cooking time may vary but is generally around 6-7 hours.
Serves 4-6 (or if you're like me, two of us with plenty of leftovers for the work week)!

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