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Italian Braised Lamb Shank Dinner
By Charlie Burke

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In Italy, meat prepared in savory sauce is often served in two courses: a pasta
course featuring the sauce, and the main course consisting of the meat, along
with vegetables. What is left is served the next day, reuniting the meat and
sauce, again served with pasta. There is no doubt that this practice began
when meat was scarce in rural Italy, and a meal containing lamb or beef was a
special event, the meat preparation providing the two main courses of the
traditional three course meal. That it is still served this way reflects Italians’
respect for tradition and the affinity for flavorful meat preparations for pasta.

Visiting the opening of the Amherst Farmers’ Market’s first in New
Hampshire indoor year round
Farmers’ Market* we had purchased two local
naturally raised lamb shanks from
Kelly Corner Farm in Chichester, New
Hampshire.

These were of good size, but certainly would not usually be thought of as
serving four. On a cold December day, though, braised in a rich sauce
containing tomato, wine and home made stock and served in two courses
with home made pasta and our own kale, there was more than enough of this
flavorful tender lamb for us and our guests.

Preparation of an Italian-Braised Lamb Shank dinner is not difficult or
complicated, and most of the cooking occurs in the oven and requires
minimal attention. It is important to brown the meat well, and sautéing the
soffrito (finely chopped onion, carrot and celery) adds more flavor than
introducing it uncooked. Once in the oven, the meat cooks slowly until it is
moist and falls from the bone.

Four Servings:

2 plump lamb shanks
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
4 small garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 bay leaf
1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or 2 teaspoons dried
¾ cup dry red wine
2 cups
roasted tomato sauce or canned tomatoes
2 cups rich chicken stock (bouillon can be substituted; if available, use Italian
cubes)
½ cup Italian or Greek black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
12 ounces
fresh** or dried pasta, such as Tagliatelle
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Heat a heavy Dutch oven or enameled iron
casserole over medium-high heat. Film with oil and add shanks. Shanks
should not touch so that they will brown deeply. This step is important; chefs
always continue until the meat is very brown on all sides which increases the
flavor of the sauce. Removed browned shanks, pour off fat and film again
with oil. Add the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring until lightly browned.

Generously sprinkle meat on all sides with salt and pepper and place into the
pan. Add wine and boil until alcohol is gone and wine is reduced. Add
tomatoes, stock and herbs. The liquid should come ¾ up the sides of the
meat; add additional stock, if necessary.

Cover meat with parchment paper and cover pot. Place into oven and cook
for 3 hours or until meat is tender and comes off the bone easily. Turning the
meat at 1 ½ hours ensures even cooking and moistness.

To serve, remove shanks and pull meat from the bones. Place on a warmed
platter, moisten with 1 -2 tablespoons of sauce and cover with foil. Turn off
oven, place covered meat in oven with door ajar.

Prepare pasta according to directions, draining when just short of being done.
While pasta is cooking, remove most of the fat from the sauce and remove all
but 3 cups from the pan, reserving extra sauce. Heat sauce to a simmer, add
pasta and cook for a minute or so to allow pasta to absorb some of the sauce.
Divide among warmed bowls and sprinkle lightly with cheese. Serve, passing
extra cheese.

For the second course, serve the meat, roughly sliced and moistened with a
couple teaspoons of reserved sauce on warmed plates with a vegetable.
Spinach or Swiss chard is commonly served here, but I chose some of our
kale, which is mild and sweet after a few frosts. A couple tablespoons of
diced pancetta were browned in olive oil, and the thinly sliced kale was
sautéed in olive oil with a small amount of water until the water had
evaporated and the kale was soft. It was seasoned with salt, pepper and a
drizzle of aged Balsamic vinegar and went well with the rich flavor of the
lamb.

This is a rich and filling meal, so there is no need for a filling first course. I’d
suggest some Italian olives and a glass of wine before dinner. Crusty peasant
bread and full bodied red wine will complete this northern Italian experience.

*Amherst (NH) Indoor Farmers' Market Open Thursdays 11:00 – 7:00,
Fridays 2:00 – 7:00, Saturdays 11:00 – 4:00, Salzburg Square, Rt.101 Amherst,
NH. Tel 603 249–9809, 602 673-7523

About the author:











An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice president of the New
Hampshire Farmer'sMarket Association, president of the NH Farm to Restaurant
Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along with his
wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill
Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Charlie Burke
Italian Braised Lamb Shank - Photo by Charlie Burke
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