lamb shanks, polenta, baby collards

dinner, March 24, 2013

I recently seized what may have been my last chance to enjoy a seasonal rich meal like this (it would definitely have felt out of sync with the warmer weather surely now just around the corner).

While on one of my regular visits to the Union Square Greenmarket the other day I learned that the shepherds of 3-Corner Field Farm, who offer their wonderful meats and cheeses – and more – there most of the year round, would be away from the local scene for a while (it’s lambing season).  I had just bought two beautiful rainbow trout from Dave at Max Creek Fishery, so I was stopping by their stall only to pick up a round of their incredible Shushan Snow cheese.  When I learned this would be my last chance to buy anything from them for a while, I decided to take home some chops, and two small (10 ounce) shanks as well, both for freezing.

We had already enjoyed the delicious chops, incredibly quick and easy to prepare, but my favorite recipe for slow-cooked shanks seemed a delightful way to perfume the apartment with cooking odors on a Sunday evening when we weren’t going to be going anywhere.   I was encouraged by the thought that the very fresh, and very sweet baby collards I had once again picked up from Rogowsky Farm (also in the Greenmarket) the day before would be a perfect foil for the rich flavors of the meat and its (virtually inevitable) accompaniment, polenta.

My standby recipe is taken straight from the first of the terrific Gray and Rogers cookery tomes, “Rogers Gray Italian Country Cook Book“;  this is my broad description of how I dealt with its details:

  • I first dipped the shanks in flour and browned them in a heavy oval enameled cast iron pan.
  • I removed the meat while preparing the remaining ingredients of the dish in the same pan, first sautéing two very-thinly-sliced red onions until they were soft and slightly brown, then adding a small handful of chopped fresh rosemary leaves and chopped garlic.
  • I continued to cook the mix, but only briefly.
  • Finally I added a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar and almost half of a cup of good red wine (Cabernet Franc, this time), and turned up the heat for a few minutes to reduce the liquid a bit.
  • The lamb went back into the pan, and I covered everything with a sheet of wet parchment which I had cut to reproduce its shape.  I reduced the heat, covered the pan, and placed it in the oven to cook slowly for two and a quarter hours, basting occasionally, and adding more wine when the onion mixture looked dry.

I finished the coarsely-ground polenta (yes, with a pretty generous amount of butter) by seasoning it and mixing in some grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh marjoram.

I sauteéd the collards lightly in a pan in which I had briefly sweated two bruised garlic cloves.

The wine we accompanied it with was stunning, a Cannonau Di Sardegna D.O.C.  20008, the pairing Barry’s inspired choice.