My brain is working overtime trying to find something positive in the cold weather that we have had on the east coast this winter. About the only thing I can come up with is that the chilling temperatures are the perfect excuse for braising meaty stews for supper. Lamb shanks are a cut that clearly illustrates why meat on the bone is so prized by serious cooks. The bones give up their gelatin to lend a wonderful texture to the sauce, and the meat is the personification of succulence. One of the reasons I love it is because (outside of the lamb shanks, which require a trip to the store), I can pull it off with ingredients that I have in the house--canned tomatoes, olives, vino, and other Mediterranean staples. It's what I am making for dinner tonight. (photo by Ben Fink)
Lamb Shanks with Feta and Olives
Makes 4 servings
Serve these spooned over orzo, macaroni, or rice, or with roasted potato wedges. Yes, you can use fresh rosemary, but add it to the sauce during the last 30 minutes of cooking or it will lose its flavor.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
4 lamb shanks, about 1 1/4 pounds each
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup hearty red wine, such as Shiraz
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree
One 15 1/2-ounce can chopped tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary 1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped kalamata olives
3/4 cup (6 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300°F.
2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the lamb shanks with the salt and pepper. In batches, add them to the Dutch oven and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
3. If needed, add a little more oil to the Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it gives off its fragrance, about 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil, stirring up the browned bits in the Dutch oven with a wooden spatula. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with their juice, rosemary, and hot pepper. Return the lamb shanks to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil.
4. Cover tightly and bake until the lamb is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. During the last few minutes, stir in the olives.
5. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the lamb shanks with the feta cheese. Serve hot.