Although I fell in love with cooking all by myself, far
away from home, where I had no choice but to learn how to feed myself or
starve, I draw inspiration from many people.
Some I have never met, some I have known all my life. My great-aunt R falls into the latter
category. She’s my grandmother’s younger sister and has a long and colorful history of great
down cake and apple pie. When I was
older, she demystified the workings of callos and bacalao ala Vizcaina. Like most cooks of the generation before my
parents, she uses no exact measurements or hard-and-fast recipes (except when baking of course…she was a well-accomplished baker in her heyday!). To learn anything, I had to sit patiently
and listen carefully, asking the right questions lest I end up with a whole
pig’s leg in my tiny kitchen (“make sure you see the hoof!”).
for her most of the time, despite her souped-up kitchen (which C and I look
upon with admiration and envy). We dine
out (she loves swanky French food) or in (she also loves C’s sinigang), and
always have a grand time (if you get her, my grandmother, and their other
sister together the stories will floor you, as will the good-natured, though at
times high-octane, teasing).
food. The lamb shanks I used here were
- 2 lamb shanks
- 75-80 grams butter, cold but malleable
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 10 fresh sage leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1 large carrot, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 white onion, peeled and sliced into half moons
- 2 leeks, sliced (note that I am using the local leeks
which are much smaller that the huge Western hemisphere varieties)
- About a wineglass of red wine
and thyme and chop. Chop the remaining
sage leaves as well. Mix the chopped
herbs with the butter. You can
alternately whiz everything together in the food processor. Season with salt and pepper. I like to season this until it is just above
your usual level of saltiness as you will be spreading this all over the lamb
and it will get diluted by the wine and vegetables.
cut between the meat and the bone from the base of the shank upwards. You want to make a hole big enough to put
your finger in. Repeat with the other
cut at the base of your shanks, pushing it all the way in. Rub the remaining butter all over the shanks
half to give you 2 large pieces of double-layer foil. Divide the garlic and vegetables between the
2 pieces of foil. Lay each shank on each
pile of veg, crack some black pepper over that and another light sprinkling of
sea salt, then top with the extra rosemary and sage. This is how it will look.
swig of wine in each parcel. Gather foil
around each shank and seal shut making sure they are closed tightly.
pre-heated 375F oven for 3-3.5 hours or until lamb is very tender.
open their own serving, or transfer everything into a serving dish making sure
not to lose any of the buttery juices!
totally enamored by this book you would be absolutely right. Honest, delicious, earthy cooking…and these
lamb shanks are a perfect example. I’ve
changed the quantities, as well as the cooking temperature and time, but
essentially the method remains the same.
And what a method it is! These
were some of the softest shanks that ever came out of my oven. Wrapping the meat and all the aromatics in
foil (and see to it that it’s tightly sealed please!) creates a little steam
bath that keeps the meat moist and flavorful, and renders it sinuously
pliant. The lamb ends up soft and
sticky, drenched in intensely flavored buttery juices. I plan to try this using other flavor
combinations as well.
of steak, Campbell’s soup, fresh apples and pears, olives, duck confit, little
cans of mandarin oranges packed in syrup, beef ribs cut for kalbi, and rotisserie
chicken. Once she appeared on our
doorstep with a whole leg of lamb! I
think it’s sufficient to say that we love my great-aunt R’s generous, if
sometimes random, care packages.
Almost as much as we love her.