52 Food Week Fifty: Lamb Shank

As I mentioned last week, we recently signed up for a meat CSA that delivers a nice mix of beef, chicken, and lamb every month. Lamb shanks have so far been a regular inclusion, which delights me to no end, since they are one thing that I’m almost guaranteed to order if they’re available at a restaurant (unless there is rabbit, in which case Thumper usually wins). I had never made lamb shanks at home, but my hand was forced and it was time to attempt one of my favorite dishes.

I did some searching for a recipe that sounded like the Italian-ish preparation to which I’m partial. I finally happened upon an NPR article with a variation on an Alice Waters’ dish that looked both approachable and traditional. I figured that the doyenne of fresh, local cuisine would not lead me astray. I cut the recipe in half to accommodate our household of two and got cracking.

I began by trimming the excess fat and the membrane from the outside of the shanks. Next I rubbed them with salt and pepper, and browned them all over in a hot pan of olive oil.

Browned Lamb Shanks

Once they were browned, I poured off most of the oil, and tossed in some onion, carrot, rosemary, crushed red pepper, and a bay leaf.

Veggies and Spices

Once these were soft, I deglazed the pan with some white wine and a tomato, then put the lamb shanks back in, along with a cup of beef broth. I covered it and put it in the oven, set to 325°F.

Lamb Shanks Ready for Braising

After about two hours of cooking, I removed the lid to let the shanks brown for the final 20 minutes.

About Two Hours Later

Meanwhile, I mixed up a little gremolata of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.


When the shanks were done, I removed them from the pan, then poured the vegetables into the food processor and puréed them. I then returned the purée to the pan, got it up to a nice simmer, and put the lamb shanks back in for a minute or two.

Shanks in the Sauce

We served the lamb shanks over couscous with the sauce and gremolata on top. This is a fantastic recipe for what I consider the most typical lamb shank preparation. The meat was extremely tender and falling off the bone. We didn’t even need knives. The gremolata adds a nice kick from the garlic and lemon zest. If you’ve got lamb shanks and you’re not sure what to do with them, this is it.

Lamb Shanks Are Served

All the photos are here.

52 Foods Week Thirty Four: Lamb Liver

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to volunteer at Heritage Fire, a huge meat event held in St. Helena, CA. Put on by the folks who created Cochon 555, Heritage Fire had 25 chefs, 10 butchers and at least 2 dozen wineries. Someone told me they had an actual ton of meat, and while I can’t confirm that, with 6 pigs, 20 rabbits, a few lambs and goats and a bunch of chickens, it’s a figure I would entirely buy.

In addition to countless delicious meat preparations, the day was filled with butchering demos. At the last one, a lamb, I was given the animal’s liver—nearly two pounds of deep burgundy meat—to take home. My lamb was raised by Long Meadow Ranch and Long Meadow’s own Avia Hawksworth handed me the liver. Having never cooked lamb liver before, I sought her advice, as well as Dave the Butcher’s. The preferred preparation, I was told, was liver and onions. Searching for a recipe the next day, I discovered an Albanian preparation that used lots of paprika, it sounded like just the ticket.

I began by mixing two parts flour with one part smoked paprika.

Flour and Smoked Paprika

Next I sliced two Walla Walla Sweets and arranged them on a platter. Walla Wallas are delicious, mild onions that don’t require much heat to bring out their sweetness. The heat from the cooked liver would be plenty to soften them.

Sliced Onions

In my recipe search, I came across a few preparations that called for bacon, and while none of those recipes won out overall, the bacon seed was planted. Fortunately, I had a couple of slices that I needed to use, so I sliced them up and threw them in the pan.
Niman Ranch Bacon

While the bacon cooked, I sliced the liver into thick strips.

Sliced Liver

Then I covered the liver slices in the flour and paprika mixture.

Dredged in Flour and Paprika

When the bacon was done, I pulled it from the pan, then used the bacon grease to cook the liver.

Frying Bacon

Liver cooks very quickly—a few minutes a slice. As each piece came out of the pan, I laid it on top of the onions.

Sautéed Liver over Onions

After cooking the liver, I threw a little garlic and more paprika in the pan, and deglazed it with some balsamic vinegar. I poured this on top of the liver and onions, then served it with rice.

Covered in Pan Juices

To be perfectly honest, enjoyment of this dish really hinges on one’s enjoyment of liver. Lamb liver is pretty hefty, and one of my guests, who was not a big liver fan, bravely soldiered through. I found that the key to balancing the flavor was to mash a bit of liver onto a bacon piece and some onions, then scoop it onto a forkful of rice. We had a strong Rauchbier alongside it, and the liver held its own against the super smokey beer.

There were lots of leftovers, and I also found that it was awesome spread in a sandwich with mustard, bleu cheese and pickles. Lamb liver may be an acquired taste, but if you’re a liver fan you owe it to yourself to try it out. Hell, a butcher might even give it to you free.

All the photos are here.