17 December 2007

Benito vs. the Sheep: Lamb Shanks

First off, thanks to Angela over at Kirby Wines and Liquors for helping pick out the wine: the 2004 Robert Hall Rhone de Robles. It's a Paso Robles blend of 44% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 11% Cinsaut and 5% Counoise. Here's more info on Counoise. It's got great blackberry and blueberry aromas, with a creamy mouth feel and excellent dark berry flavors.

The South joins the great cuisines of France, Italy, and China in that it celebrates nearly every part of the pig. Ears and ankles and intestines aren't all that uncommon. But when it comes to the ovine cuts, we're far more restricted--this just isn't sheep country. Mutton is hard to come by (and for good reason, though I hear that it makes decent BBQ up in Kentucky). Lamb legs, chops, and rib racks are increasingly common, and can be found for reasonable prices at Costco. Shoulder is harder to come by, and it is often horribly overpriced. I've never seen lamb neck, tenderloin, or sausage in this town, though I'd love for someone to prove me wrong.

On this occasion, I decided to cook a cut of lamb I'd never eaten before: the shank. This is like the section of your leg from the knee to the ankle, incorporating the tibia and fibula but not the knee joint or tarsals. Watch out for hanging tendons and ligaments. Your standard "leg of lamb" is the upper hip portion around the femur. I grabbed the shanks at the Schnuck's in Cordova, where they come two to a pack.

I basically followed Jamie Oliver's recipe, which involved putting each shank in its own foil pouch containing herbs, vegetables, and white wine. The vegetables included carrots, cherry tomatoes, and leeks, and I did insert a slug of herbed butter into the heart of each shank. For a side dish, I made a gratin of cauliflower made with Cheshire cheese.

Dinner was well received by all, which included perennial dinner companions The Girlfriend, Paul and his fiancée Grace. Dessert consisted of Stilton cheese with 20-year-old Sandeman Port. A great savory dinner for a cold winter night.

1 comment:

Big Mike said...

Angela is super and very wine smart. She also is a blast to know. One of the most fun people you will ever talk wine with, for sure.