Much of Italy is rocky ground, perfect for grazing sheep. I would take walks down the country roads near my home and come across shepherds and their sheep dogs herding flocks of sheep from pasture to pasture.
In the past lamb was reserved for Easter or special occasions such as weddings, baptisms, etc. During my visit to Italy last week butcher shops across the country featured signs for "agnello di pasqua", Easter lamb.
The Italians know that lamb is a good source of protein, minerals and B-group vitamins including niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. A 3 oz. serving of lamb provides 26% of our daily requirements for iron, 33% of zinc, and 108% of niacin. Lamb is lean and low in cholesterol compared to other animal proteins. 50% of the fat in lamb is mono-unsaturated. That same 3 oz serving contains only 5 grams of fat as compared to 8 grams in beef and pork. It contains 2 times more iron than chicken or pork and 10 times more iron than fish.
This dish is an excellent version of Osso Buco, featuring lamb instead of veal. It's not a last minute meal, but well worth the effort.
Lamb Shanks in Red Wine
- 4 lamb shanks (you may need to ask your butcher to order them)
- 1/2 bottle Chianti
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp + 3 Tbs oregano
- 4 whole bay leaves
- 15 juniper berries, crushed
- 1 quart water
- freshly ground, black pepper
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry Sherry
- Mix wine, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp oregano, orange juice, 1/2 tsp thyme, bay leaves, juniper berries, water, salt, pepper, and olive oil together in a resealable glass baking dish.
- Make the marinade the day before cooking and let the shanks sit for 24 hours.
- Remove the shanks from marinade. Strain marinade, saving the bay leaves.
- Heat the 2 Tbs olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.
- Remove the onion and garlic from the pan and set aside.
- Add lamb shanks to pan and brown on all sides over medium heat.
- Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, Sherry, strained marinade, and remaining seasoning.
- Bring to a boil for 15 minutes.
- Transfer shanks and sauce to a baking pan.
- Place uncovered in 300 degree oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender.
- Remove lamb shanks to plate and cover.
- Serve with the sauce and crusty bread.
Bella Italian Food Recommends
Corning Pyrex Clear Rectangular Bake Set, 2 Qt. & 3 Qt.
Add this set to your stock of indispensable cookware and your baking explorations will begin. It provides the needed dimensions that you will use time and again.