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You’ve probably been counseled by other food bloggers or cooking enthusiasts to let what looks good on any given day at your market determine what you’ll cook that night. I more or less agree with this advice, but I must admit that it definitely helps to have high-quality markets nearby. Fortunately, I live in downtown New York, where I’m surrounded by some of the city’s finest fish mongers, green grocers, and butchers, which makes being inspired by their offerings relatively easy.

Such was the case the other day when I went to my butcher, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats located in Chelsea Market, looking for inspiration. They’re know for locally sourced, humanely raised meats, and I wasn’t there long before I espied and bought some meaty lamb shanks.

As I walked home, I started to consider how to prepare them. For me, braising was the obvious choice, but I wasn’t quite sure what to braise them with. So when I got home, I looked through some of my go-to books for braising and found an appealing recipe in Michele Scicolone’s The Mediterranean Slow Cooker: “Lamb Shanks with Sweet and Sour Onions.”

The recipe calls for just a few ingredients with which to cook the lamb: red onions, garlic, rosemary, red wine, and balsamic vinegar.

The Ingredients
The Ingredients

The minimal prep also made the recipe attractive: browning the onions and then combing them with the garlic (minced), the rosemary (chopped), the red wine (dry), and the balsamic vinegar. Since the vinegar plays a leading role in flavoring this dish, I recommend using a good quality balsamic.

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Browning the onions
Onions with the wine, balsamic, and rosemary
Onions with the wine, balsamic, and rosemary

Cooked on low for 8 hours, the shanks become tender and succulent and their distinctive meaty flavors are perfectly complemented by the sweet-and-sour onions and braising liquid.

I served the shanks with polenta, made creamy with butter, cream, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

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