Tag Archives: lamb

Clyde Common: grilled lamb, herbed Israeli couscous, harissa

Picture this: Nine o’clock in the evening. The sun has just set, its glow tracing a silvery edge over the ridge of the West Hills. Even in the dark, the leaves of the street trees stand out, clearly bright green. People are laughing and talking, their voices distant, maybe half way round the block.  The air is so soft and warm, a bit muggy, scented with the herbal pungency of flowering trees. I step out to dinner in a cotton dress and sandals, no sweater, even though it’s late. It’s that kind of night.

Walking around in Northwest Portland at any time of the year in search of something to eat is a pleasure but it’s my idea of perfect when it’s so warm after dark. Given the circumstances, I might be able to chalk up my obsession with the lamb skewers and Israeli couscous we ate at Clyde Common two years ago in early August to that perfect Northwest summer evening. Or it could have been the cocktail: gin, St. Germain, champagne, bitters and a little beaten egg white – I swear I can still taste it. Or the french fries, shatteringly crisp, with harissa and creme fraiche. (See, I still remember every single detail and it’s been two years!)

But the lamb! It was charred on the outside, tender and pink on the inside. I kind of hate the word morsel, but it evokes the tenderness and savory more-ishness of these skewers. Then of course there’s the couscous underneath, bright with preserved lemon and parsley, studded with toasted hazelnuts, and just to the side deep red harissa streaking around, fiery and compelling. Maybe it’s because of my current obsession with Plenty, and the myriad couscous variations I’ve been cooking, I feel that now I’m ready to riff on that excellent Clyde Common meal, no problem.

So I can’t conjure up any summer weather; it’s still freezing here in Seattle. It’s ok. I can make this.

Lamb Skewers with Herbed Israeli Couscous, Grilled Lemons and Harissa

Serves 4.

Lamb Skewers

I tried both a yogurt marinade for the lamb and an olive oil version. I liked how the lamb became very tender after bathing in yogurt for 24 hours. However, I wanted a deeply browned edge, and you don’t get that with a yogurt marinade, so I switched it up and went with olive oil. Much better.

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf or two
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sliced shallots
  • kosher sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs butterflied leg of lamb – silver skin trimmed away and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  1. Combine the olive oil, garlic, thyme, bay, rosemary, shallots, 1 tsp salt and several grindings of black pepper. Stir vigorously with a fork.
  2. Pour marinade into a gallon ziplock bag and toss in the lamb. Seal the bag, pushing out all the air, and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.
  3. Drain the meat, reserving the marinade and pat the lamb dry with a paper towel. Thread the meat onto short skewers. Don’t crowd. Brush the cut ends of the lemons with the marinade. Grill the lamb over medium high heat for 8-10 minutes turning 2 or 3 times, basting now and then.  During the last 3 minutes, grill the lemons, cut sides down. Arrange all over the couscous and serve immediately.

Herbed Israeli Couscous with Preserved Lemon and Toasted Hazelnuts

  • 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 preserved lemon, flesh scooped out and discarded, rind slivered
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed away in a dishtowel
  1. In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, over medium-high heat, sauté the couscous in  the olive oil. After 2 0r 3 minutes, when it has browned a little, add the stock and the butter. Turn the heat to high and when the stock begins to simmer, clamp on a lid and turn the heat down to low.
  2. After ten minutes, remove the lid, fluff with a fork and stir in the parsley, scallions, preserved lemon and hazelnuts.
  3. Mound in the center of a large platter and arrange the lamb skewers over the top. Serve with a bowl of harissa and the grilled lemons.

lamb skewers, Israeli couscous, grilled lemon, harissa


Shades of Fog City – Lamb Burger with Chutney and Smoked Cheddar

When I first moved to San Francisco, I occasionally visited a restaurant called Fog City Diner. A well-heeled but touristy place at the base of the Filbert Steps, Fog City was an out-of-towner and yuppies’ haunt. Singles crowded the bar and the bridge and tunnel set hogged the booths. Often you had to wait forever for a table and  sometimes the food and the service were uneven.

Still, I kept going back because there were a few things I loved about Fog City. One, they made a perfect Pimm’s Cup. Okay I did have to coach the bartender a little bit on how I like it – with fizzy lemonade and a long slice of cucumber, but he was game. The lemonade was made from fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and soda and it made an excellent Pimm’s. Also, the onion rings were exemplary: a crisp cloud enclosing an almost melting interior onion. My favorite though, was the lamb sandwich on focaccia with homemade chutney.  I seem to remember that it was apricot, but it may have been tomato. Whatever. Whether tomato or apricot, it was spicy and floral with that chutney tang I love. The rosy, gamey lamb, the tangy chutney, the chewy focaccia – it was perfect.

Perhaps you think a proper British Pimm’s Cup would be out of place with something so flavorful and almost exotic? No. Not for me anyway. The spicy, sweet Pimms found its match in the spicy, sweet sandwich. And all those people lurking at the bar, wheeling and dealing or on the hunt? Why would anyone subject themselves to that racket after a long day at work? I didn’t even notice them once we scored the booth. Socked in by the San Francisco fog, the restaurant glowed like a beacon. I would run for the glowing windows from work to meet good friends. Cozied up together in a booth, chatting happily and looking out at a gloomy night with the perfect sandwich – who cares if you’re surrounded by yuppies on the prowl?

Fast forward and 20 years later, here I am in Seattle, three kids, a husband, a dog and a cat – I am not running around at night, my mouth watering for a lamb sandwich and a cocktail that complements it perfectly (although some nights I might wish I were). I can’t go back to being twenty-two. Maybe though, maybe, I can conjure up something like that sandwich, since I definitely can’t go back in time. Some weekend in the future, when I have all the time I need to roast a leg of lamb and make focaccia, and whip up a little homemade tomato chutney, I can make the lamb sandwich exactly the way I remember it. Tonight I was in a hurry though – and this quick version made me smile:

Lamb Burger with Chutney and Smoked Cheddar – serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 slice white sandwich bread, processed into fine crumbs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 clove garlic grated on a Microplane or pressed in a garlic press
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp Major Grey’s Chutney, plus additional to serve – I like Patak’s which has a looser set than most chutneys
  • 1/4 pound smoked cheddar – I used Beecher’s
  • (4) brioche buns
  1. Heat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. Then turn down one (or two – if you have a three burner grill) of the burners to low, so that one burner is left on high and you have a cooler part of the grill to heat the buns.
  2. While the grill heats up, in a medium sized bowl, combine the bread crumbs, the milk, the garlic, the 2 tbsp chutney and the salt and pepper. Mash with a fork until the bread crumbs have formed a thick paste.
  3. Add the ground lamb to the bowl and combine the lamb with the paste lightly but thoroughly with your hands. Form into 4 equally sized patties.
  4. Spray each patty on either side with olive oil.
  5. When the grill is hot, place the patties over the hottest burner for 3-4 minutes, closing the lid. Then turn the burgers, again closing the lid,  and set a timer for 2 minutes. After two minutes, place a slice of smoked cheddar on top of each burger. Close the lid again!
  6. When there is just about 45 seconds left, lightly toast the brioche – be careful! Brioche burn so easily!
  7. Serve immediately accompanied by more chutney.

Ms. Jaffrey’s Weeknight Lamb – Kheema Matar

If you ask me, this is a perfect mid-week meal for the wet, cold, dark season. I admit, it really doesn’t look pretty or delicious. I’m not sure it’s possible to photograph browned ground lamb beautifully. You’ll just have to trust me and Madhur Jaffrey whose recipe this is – or maybe read the ingredients list. I love lamb in any preparation, but combined with garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin – that really gets my attention. Kheema matar tastes wonderful and the aroma is positively seductive. Adults and children will be very happy with this menu.

Don’t freak out about the length of the ingredients list for a mid week meal. Check it out: Once you’ve made this dish once – you’ll see how quickly it comes together. Here are all the ingredients laid out:

Really, how long could such a small amount of chopping possibly take? 10 minutes tops.

Kheema matar

for 4-6

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium sized onion (the size of a tennis ball) minced
  • 6 or 7 medium sized cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 3-4 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 hot green chilies (for children use 1 medium sized jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed; for adults or those who like spicier food use  1 or 2 serranos)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (from a brand new jar or freshly ground!)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 10 ounces water, divided into 6 and 4 fl ounces respectively
  • 7 ounces frozen petite peas
  • 6 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala (buy small amounts in the bulk section)
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon or lime juice

Begin, by finely chopping the onion, garlic, chilies,and cilantro. Grate the ginger and squeeze the lemon juice. When chopping chilies, it is a good ideas to protect your hand by either wearing rubber gloves designated for the purpose (mine are labelled with indelible marker “beets and chilies”) or covering your hand with a plastic produce bag as shown below:

Keep the onions and garlic separate from the other ingredients as they will be added to the dish on their own. In one bowl, combine the fresh ginger, chilies, ground coriander, cumin and cayenne. In a second bowl, put the peas, chopped cilantro, salt, garam masala, lemon juice and 4 fl. ounces of water. Measure 6 ounces of water in a liquid measuring cup and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wide, heavy saute pan over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and fry until lightly browned. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant – about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the lamb and the contents of the bowl containing the ginger, green chilies, ground coriander, cumin and cayenne. Stir to mix all the ingredients and brown the meat. I like to do this with a stainless steel wire potato masher – it is the best tool for the job. See?

Add the 6 ounces of water and raise the heat until the mixture is simmering. Cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes.

While the lamb simmers, you may want to start some basmati rice and make the green beans. I also bought some naan and heated them in the oven and served some Greek yogurt (about 3/4 of a cup) into which I grated a small clove of garlic and stirred in a 1/2 tsp of sea salt.

When 30 minutes is up, add the contents of the bowl containing the peas, cilantro, salt, garam masala, lemon juice, and the 4 ounces of water. Stir and raise the heat, bringing to a simmer once again. Cook a further 10 minutes. Taste it – you may want more salt or lemon juice.

Serve with rice and steamed green beans. You may want to try the Spicy Green Beans also from Ms. Jaffrey. To be very authentic to her childhood dish, Ms. Jaffrey would have you include a fire-y lime pickle but I didn’t happen to have any.

Kashmiri koftas

If you were going to parse the series of menus in my blog, I really have to wonder what you would think as you were reading – something like: there’s this lady who has a blog and all she does is write about Indian food and sausages – weird!  All I can say in my defense is that my mom is English and the English have a thing about curries and bangers, although not usually on the same menu.

Kashmiri koftas are kind of like a curried banger – or at least a curried sausage and that is what I made for dinner tonight. Lamb, ginger and other Indian spices are browned then braised with yogurt, cardamom, cinnamon and bay. As I was cooking, I lifted the lid over the simmering pan and just closed my eyes and inhaled. The word that came to mind was “heady”. Heady with subcontinental spices. I was transported. And after a week of school auctions, procurements, meetings and the like (I won’t bore you with the details), that is just what I needed – to be somewhere else. Preferably somewhere sub-tropically hot, where the food is really, really good.  Cooking another culture is my escape – a cheap trip out of here.

Most of today’s menu came from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery and if you don’t have this book already, I have to recommend you run out and get yourself the updated version, Indian Cooking, and cook your way through. One year I gave Indian Cookery to every member of my family (I guess I can be a bit of a zealot). I think my brother Jonny uses it occasionally. But it pays to be fearless if you have to cook all the time.

You see, when I make dinner from Indian Cookery, I am never bored. I never feel as if I am stuck in a terrible complacent rut where the kids dictate our every bite. So many parents cower before their children, who act like little dictators, falling apart if the food isn’t blandly familiar. I would be really sad not to eat with my kids, exposing them to all the things I love (there are so many things!), teaching them the pleasures of tasting and eating together. The kids gobbled dinner tonight – they were really talking to me and to each other about what made it taste so good. I bet we’ll arm wrestle for the leftovers tomorrow.

Yet Another Indian Menu

  • Kashmiri Kofta – Lamb Meatballs
  • Aloo Gobi – Spicy Cauliflower and Potatoes
  • Raita – Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
  • Greens with Major Grey’s Dressing


  • Please, don’t be put off by all the spices. Go to the bulk section of a reputable grocer and buy 3 tbsp of each one – labeling them carefully. (if you forgot to do that – it would be so terrible and confusing!) Even though the list of spices is long, all it takes is a little measuring. Don’t buy the glass jars – you’ll spend an arm and a leg.
  • Read over all four recipes first, then measure out the spices for all the recipes at once.  I have a bunch of odd little bowls for this purpose. Combine the measured spices, as the recipe states, into the bowls so you can add them in groups as required. The rest is incredibly easy.
  • There are ground roasted cumin seeds in both the aloo gobi and the raita – roast all the cumin seeds at the same time.  Take the seeds and put them in a heavy bottomed small pan over medium heat. Push around with a wooden spoon until fragrant. Don’t ignore them, they’ll burn in a matter of seconds.  The whole toasting process should take about 2 minutes. Grinding in a mortar and pestle – about 15 seconds. Build the roasting and grinding into the measuring process, before you start the actual recipes. Roasted cumin seeds are very easy to grind with a mortar and pestle. My nine year old did it for me. I also have a coffee grinder reserved for grinding spices.
  • Use a Microplane grater to grate the ginger.
  • Cut up the cauliflower and start it soaking before you start.
  • Steam the potatoes while the Koftas are simmering.

Kashmiri Koftas

(serves 6)

The Koftas

  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • a piece of ginger, 1 1/2″ x 1″ – more or less – grated
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp yogurt

The Braising Liquid

  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 7-8 tbsp vegetable oil
  • a 2″ stick of cinnamon
  • 5-6 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 8 oz warm water
  1. Combine all the ingredients for the koftas in a medium sized bowl, and mix well using your hands.
  2. Wet your hands with water and form 24 koftas, in sausage shapes,about 2 1/2-3″ long and 1″ thick.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat.  When hot, put in the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, bay leaves and whole cloves. Stir to coat with oil.
  4. Add all the koftas in a single layer to the pan and fry until they are lightly browned on all sides – about 2 minutes a side.
  5. While they are browning, stir the yogurt into the warm water. Pour over the koftas and bring to a simmer. The liquid will look very watery – that is intentional.
  6. Simmer for 1/2 an hour, turning the koftas every 10 minutes. At the end of 1/2 an hour, the liquid should have boiled away, leaving only the vegetable oil. If you need to, turn up the heat to reduce the liquid.
  7. With a slotted spoon, lift the koftas out of the pan to a platter or plates.  Leave behind any leftover liquid and spices.

Aloo Gobi – Cauliflower and Potatoes

(serves 4-6)

Aloo gobi is one of my all time favorite foods and so I have to put it in my blog. I can’t apologize for all the ways that cumin appears: whole, ground and roasted and ground. I know it seems like a lot of work especially if you’ve never roasted and ground spices before. Just try it. Trust me.  Do once or twice and you’ll see how easy it is.

  • 1/2 lb small potatoes – like fingerlings or use leftover cooked and peeled russet potatoes
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, broken into 1″ – 1 1/2″ florets
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds

Combine in a small bowl:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 -1 fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Steam the potatoes if you have fingerlings. Cut small potatoes in half or cube leftover potatoes into 3/4″ cubes. You needn’t peel fingerlings – their skins are so thin.
  2. Soak cauliflower in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 an hour. Drain.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, add the whole cumin seeds and let sizzle for a few seconds.
  4. Add the cauliflower and stir for 2 minutes.  Let the cauliflower get little brown caramelized spots on it.
  5. Cover and simmer for 4-6 minutes or until the cauliflower is almost done – with the merest crispness left in it.
  6. Add all the ingredients in the bowl and the potatoes to the skillet and stir gently and thoroughly for 3 or 4 minutes until potatoes are warmed through.

Raita – Cucumber and Yogurt Salad

  • 2 1/2 cups of  full fat yogurt
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, peeled and then grated on the large holes of a box grater, any juices discarded
  • 1/2 tsp ground, roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate covered, until ready to eat.

Major Grey’s Dressing

This is so NOT an authentic recipe.  I found it in the back of Gourmet in 1994. Perhaps you will find it too sweet.  I love it on butter lettuce with cucumbers and avocados.

  • 1/4 cup Major Grey’s chutney
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

In a blender mix the first 5 ingredients.  Slowly, in a thin steady stream, add the vegetable oil.

Another kind of Thursday

The last time I wrote about a Thursday menu, I was crazily making lamb shanks and drinking elderflower laced champagne cocktails.  Well this is an entirely different kind of Thursday – still a crazy Thursday, but with a simpler menu.   This is a menu I could make with my eyes closed.   When my sister-in-law made this for us last spring – from a Swedish women’s magazine – I was skeptical.  Normally I wouldn’t make Middle Eastern inspired food from a Swedish recipe. I would go to Claudia Roden or something.  But this is a great, easy menu.   The recipes use ingredients you can find at any grocery store.  In the rare case that there are leftovers – they always get eaten up.  If for some reason you won’t eat lamb – just substitute ground chicken or turkey.

A Midweek Middle Eastern Inspired Menu from Sweden:

makes enough for 4 – or 2 grown-ups, 2 children and 1 toddler

  • Lamb Patties with Feta
  • Cannellini Purée with Basil and Garlic
  • Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Game Plan

  1. Mix and form the lamb patties
  2. Make the cannellini bean purée
  3. Prepare the salad, but leave the dressing until serving time
  4. Cook the lamb
  5. Dress the salad after flipping the lamb

Lamb Patties with Feta

  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp cream
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 1/2 yellow onion, grated on the big holes in a box grater
  • 5 ounces feta, crumbled or cubed in small (1/4″) pieces
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • salt and pepper
  • mild olive oil for sauté

In a medium sized bowl, crack the egg and stir in the oats and cream.  Add the grated onion, the feta and the lamb, and salt and pepper to taste.  I would say a minimum of a 1/2  tsp of salt.  Mix well.  I use my hands because Marion Cunningham (Fannie Farmer Cookbook) told me to.  It will be painfully cold.  So I stand next to the sink and nudge on the hot water when I can’t take it anymore.  You may be less of a wimp than I.  When the ingredients are well combined, form them into 12 small patties. (about 2″ in diameter and a scant 1/2″ thick)  If you happen to be doing this in the middle of the day, it is fine to stack them on a plate (with plastic wrap separating the layers) and pop them in the fridge until ready to cook.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Don’t be impatient.  You want a hot pan because you want a delicious caramelized crust.  That’s what makes things taste good.  Add 1 tbsp of olive oil, watch it shimmer and lay the patties in the pan.  If you have got the heat  right, they will take 4-5 minutes per side.  Unlike rack of lamb, these are not meant to be rare.  Serve hot.

Cannellini Bean Purée with Basil and Garlic

One of the things I like about this puree is that it can be served cold and fairly stiff – like hummus.  Or it can be served warm and soft.  Its demeanor in the menu is like flavorful mashed potatoes, which is good for those trying to cut their carb intake. Cannellini prepared this way are so delicious, so incredibly easy, you won’t miss the pita bread or pilaf which would also be nice in this menu.  The menu as printed in Sweden used canned beans and that is fine – and very easy if you are serving the purée cold.  After using cans the first time, I tried cooking my own beans.  I like having the bean cooking water to thin the purée – and that the beans were still warm from cooking.  If you want the purée warm and have neither time nor energy to soak and cook beans, rinse them under the tap in a colander, and add  a little water to thin them out.  You could always heat them up on the stove or in the microwave.

  • 2 cans of Cannellini Beans or 1 cup dried cannellini, soaked and cooked, cooking water reserved
  • 3 tbsp or more olive oil – I like a green and spicy oil for this
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced, grated or through a garlic press
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, washed, carefully dried and chopped, not too fine
  • Salt

Using a food processor, purée the beans and olive oil, adding a little bean cooking water or plain water to get the consistency you want.  Add the garlic and fresh basil by hand.  Taste for salt.  When I turn this out into a serving bowl I like to pour a little more green olive oil over the top.

Tomatoes and Cucumber Salad

This couldn’t be easier.  You could add romaine, red onions, toasted pita and sumac, to make fatoush.  But if it’s mid week, you may not have the energy.  I wouldn’t.  I might, if I had some lying around anyway, slice some red onion very, very thin, and soak it in water until the salad was served (so it’s not too sharply onion-y; learned that from reading Marcella Hazan).  That would still be easy and add good sprightly flavor.

  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 pint of small tomatoes (if you are making this in the winter and you live in a cold climate, these are the only possible choice – big ones are too often mealy and flavorless)
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar

Peel the cucumber, slice lengthwise and, using a small spoon, scrape out the seeds.  Slice into 1/4″ slices.

Halve or quarter the tomatoes.  Combine in a medium bowl and toss with the olive oil.  Salt to taste, and add the vinegar.  If using romaine or onion, add those too.


To serve, I sometimes plate this in the kitchen to save washing serving dishes.   I would put a generous serving of the bean puree under 3 lamb patties.  The salad can cozy up next to the puree.  Fancy people might drizzle the puree with green olive oil and a sprig of basil.  Even not fancy people might, as it is so easy to do and it tastes so good!

Crazy Thursday = Braised Lamb Shanks? What?!

Thursday is too crazy. Volunteer work in the morning, multiple kid commitments in the afternoon – all overlapping of course, sometimes all of us five plus my dad for dinner, sometimes only half the family. So why would I decide to braise lamb shanks on a day when it really should be quesadillas and guacamole? I don’t know. I bought them on the weekend and the thought of them 2 days after the Thanksgiving gourmet gauntlet kind of put me over the edge so I tossed them, already seasoned with s & p into the freezer. But there they sat niggling at me. I thought I might forget about them there and that I would come across them in May under a thick coating of freezer burn. So I pulled them out of the freezer and now find myself on crazy Thursday with a braise and gremolata to play with. Also, my father-in-law brought a bottle of St. Germain home and I’ve been DYING to try some, so I popped a bottle of champagne in the fridge as a mixer for drinks before dinner. What’s going on? I don’t drink drinks before dinner – not on crazy Thursday.

I was wrong to be overwrought about this. Stew – which I love – drives me nuts; getting the deep caramelized browning on all those pieces of meat without steaming them (by overcrowding the pan in the zeal to complete the task), or the possibility of burning the fond because of the desire for deep browning. Also there is a fair amount of chopping involved. Carrots, potatoes, onions. I love stew but I rarely make it Monday-Thursday.

The shanks turned out to be a lot easier! They’re large and I’m making 6 so I did have to do two batches, but because they’re big it’s actually hard to crowd them into the pan. You wouldn’t want to prop them up on each other. The entire side of each shank should lay flat on the bottom of the pot, maximizing the area to be browned. Twelve minutes of browning for each batch with very little attention from me seems reasonable. While they were browning, the peeling and rough chopping of carrots, onions and a head of garlic (whacked in half) was very straight forward. With the addition of a can of peeled tomatoes, a little wine and chicken stock, the whole thing came together in less than half an hour. Not too bad. The cooking time is long, plan on 2 1/2 -3 hours. There is about 10 minutes of work on the serving end, skimming off the fat and straining the sauce, making the gremolata. But, I can see myself – elderflower scented champagne glass in hand – blithely chopping parsley, garlic and lemon rind. I hope I don’t chop one of my fingers off.

Braised Lamb Shanks

  • 4 lamb shanks trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and Freshly ground pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 onions. peeled and cut into 1/8ths
  • 2 carrots – peeled and cut in 1″ pieces
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half
  • 1 small dried chile pepper
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • a bay leaf
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 can of whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Best if you can do this the night before, leaving them covered with parchment in the refrigerator overnight.

Generously cover the bottom of your dutch oven with the olive oil and heat on medium high. When the olive oil shimmers add the 4 shanks – if they fit flat on the bottom of the pan; if not, do them in two batches. Brown them well on all sides – this will take about 12 minutes. If you know your pan and your stove, don’t hang about watching them brown, get chopping! This will be over very quickly if the vegetables are ready. When they are deeply browned, remove them from the pan and pour off the fat. If the residue in the pan is blackened or bitter smelling, wipe the inside of the pan carefully before continuing with the recipe.

Add more olive oil to the pan, and again over medium high heat add the onions, carrots, garlic, chile pepper, peppercorns, rosemary and bay. Cook until the vegetables are slightly soft, about 3 or 4 minutes, then add the wine and tomatoes. Turn up the heat to high.

When the wine has reduced by half, put the lamb shanks back into the pot and add the chicken broth, arranging the shanks so that they are mostly covered by liquid. Bring to a boil and pop the whole thing into the oven at 325 for 2 1/2-3 hours. Remove the cover during the last 20 minutes of braising to allow the lamb to brown a little.

When the lamb is very tender and is falling away from the bones, take the meat out of the liquid and put on a plate. Skim off all the fat with a flat serving spoon. The clear, viscous liquid on the surface of the braise is what you are looking for. Skim it all off! It won’t add to the finished dish. Take the remaining skimmed liquid and put it and all the vegetables through a food mill – it will catch any rough pieces of the garlic, bay and chiles and turn the vegetables into a beautiful smooth sauce. You may need to thin it with a little more broth. Taste, then add the lamb back to the sauce.


Near the end of cooking time, you will need to make gremolata.

  • parsley
  • lemon
  • garlic

Get out a chopping board and a sharp chef’s knife.

Chop washed and carefully dried parsley to make 3 tbsp then chop one clove of garlic. With a microplane grater, take the rind from an organic lemon. Mix it all up and you’re good to go.

The shanks go nicely with polenta or mashed potatoes, but because it’s crazy Thursday I am making buttered egg noodles and calling it a day. Steamed broccoli rabe on the side.

My house smells inviting and deliciously wintery. I, on the other hand, smell like browned lamb shanks, which is weird but worth it. For this recipe I have to thank Alice Waters again and The Art of Simple Food.

P.S. It is worth noting that Crazy Thursday might not be the best time to introduce an unfamiliar dish to kids. Thursday is over-programmed enough at our house without adding meltingly tender and flavorful meat that has, unfortunately (for them), a modicum of visually-unappealing-to-kids-connective-tissue and fat on it. The little guy didn’t eat one bite and the biggest one was coerced into three. If she hadn’t been so tired I really believe she would have eaten the whole thing though…I really do.