Alright, I know, I know. I realize that a mere 4 months ago, I was begging for this, but I’m really wishin’ for a rainy day now. So I’ve been doing the rain dance, turning off the sprinklers, and making “winter food” for dinner every night, hoping to bring forth the rain. Despite my efforts, however, my herbs are turning brown (maybe I shouldn’t have turned off those sprinklers), and we’re practically sweating at the dinner table, choking down stews and soups!
But, hey! I wanted to make lamb shanks. And so I did! I friend of mine works part-time at the restaurant, and helps his dad run their farm in Sacramento part-time. He brought me a grocery bag full of goodies last week, including a huge bunch of lemon verbena. I love lemon verbena, as you may remember. He gave me so much that I’ll be able to use it for at least a few different recipes. But I’ve been wanting to try braising with it. My original idea was to make a quick fish fumet (a stock made with fish bones) using the lemon verbena leaves as flavoring, and then do a quick braise with some halibut or rock cod. I was likening it to the use of lemon-grass in thai food. But lemon verbena leaves are so tender that I was afraid their flavor would dissipate quickly.
Well, the day I had designated for my “lemon verbena braise” was so down-right grey and dreary, that I just couldn’t fathom a light dish. So lamb shanks it was! Boy, did it turn out fantastic. I added ginger to compliment the lemon verbena and the two went together beautifully.
Lamb Shanks with Lemon Verbena and Ginger
yields 2 servings with some leftovers for soup, etc.
If you want to serve one lamb shank per person, look for lamb shanks that weigh about 1 pound each. If you just want to let the meat fall off the bone and have leftovers, look for shanks that wiegh 1-1/2 pounds each. Also, you can ask your butcher to “crack” the bone, whereby they will saw through the bone, allowing the marrow to be exposed, adding richness and deliciousness(!) to the dish.
If you’re very concerned about removing excess fat, you might want to make this dish a day in advance, then refrigerate the whole thing. The fat will rise to the top and solidify over-night, allowing you to easily lift it off the top and discard. Then simply re-heat, covered, over medium-low heat until warmed through.
- 2 lamb shanks totaling about 3-1/4 pounds
- 2 small red onions cut into a large dice
- 1-1/2 cups chicken stock or low sodium broth
- 2 fresh red tomatoes, or 4 pieces of canned whole tomatoes, cut in half
- 7 leaves of lemon verbena
- 1/2-inch hunk of ginger, sliced
- 5 medium garlic cloves
The day before cooking, salt the lamb using 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt per pound of lamb. The next day, place a large stew-pot over medium heat and add 2 Tablepoons of pure olive oil or vegetable oil. Brown lamb shanks until they are golden on each side. Remove lamb and place on a plate. Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat. Turn the heat to medium-low, and add the onions, whole garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt. Sweat down until they are translucent. Add tomato and ginger. continue to cook for about 5 minutes allowing them to soften slightly. Add the stock and simmer. Place the lamb shanks back in the pot, cover, and simmer very slowly for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. The cooking time will vary, depending upon how large the shanks were. The meat should be tender enough to fall off the bone.
And while I didn’t manage to snap any pictures of the braised shanks, I did manage to snap a picture of the yummy soup I made with the leftovers….