Roasted Lamb Shank

While paging through an old cookbook the other day, I came upon a printout of a recipe that I found in December 2006. Titled, “Roast Lamb for One,” it was Nigella Lawson’s recipe for roasting a single lamb shank, a perfect meal for the bachelor that I was back then and why I had tucked it away.

No longer single, however, I decided to double the recipe and make roast lamb for two. The only ingredient that I didn’t have was a red currant jelly for the finishing sauce, so I decided to check out the recipe online to see if any readers had suggested an alternative. That’s when I discovered that the recipe had received a considerable number of negative reviews that shared a common problem; in the words of one reviewer: “. . . just a burnt mess on the bottom of the pan and no juices left at all to make a gravy. The meat was nowhere near tender. . .”

This complaint gave me some pause, so I decided to search the web for any other mentions of this recipe. I found several and one in particular had considerable success. I also found a video of Nigella making the dish and discovered that she used the jelly as a condiment and not as part of a sauce.

Even more research led me to different methods of roasting lamb shanks, many of which called for slow cooking them either covered or wrapped in foil packages. Although I was tempted to follow one of them, in the end I stuck to the original.

To avoid a sticky mess, I used a non-stick “everyday” pan for my roasting tin and made sure to use the baking level of my oven, which would provide more even heating. I also planned to add a little wine to the pan if it looked as though the sauce was drying up.

Because I wasn’t too sure about this recipe, we didn’t photograph the ingredients or the preparation. I’m happy to report, however, that my lamb shanks turned out perfectly. I think the reason my sauce didn’t stick was that by doubling the recipe, as well as being generous with the port, I had ample liquid in the pan for the hour-and-a-half roasting, which turned into a syrupy sauce for the meat. The lamb was also perfectly tender, which I can attributed to the overnight marination of the shanks. Looking back, I think my online research kept me from abandoning the recipe and resulted in what might well be called a “lamb shank redemption.”

Should you decide to make one one shank, I’d advise keeping the doubled marinade. Also keep in mind that, unlike a roast leg of lamb, a shank cannot be served rare.

Roast Lamb Shanks (Adapted from “Roast Lamb for One” by Nigella Lawson)

2 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lemon, juiced and zested (save the squeezed lemon haves and add them to the marinade)
4 generous tablespoons red port
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put everything together, along with squeezed lemon halves, into a freezer bag, tie securely, and leave in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Take the lamb in its package out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

4. Put the lamb shank along with its marinade (minus the lemon halves) into a roasting tin and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the shank. Turn the shank over halfway through cooking. Add a splash or two of wine to the pan if necessary.

5. By the time it is done it should look bursting with bronze color; remove from the pan and let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

6. Serve the lamb shanks whole and drizzle with gravy.

Lamb Shanks Resting

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir

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