Friday Pearl

Potato Latkes & Red Salmon Caviar

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

House quests are the norm in high country, particularly during the December holidays and other mountain sports seasons. 

This easy and fabulous NYT après-ski recipe was treasured and shared with lots of friends and neighbors during my years in Tahoe City, California. It can be assembled and put in a slow oven for the whole day, while you and your guests are on the mountain skiing, snow shoeing, mountain biking, or hiking.

Hearty lamb shanks with currants and chickpeas always make the house smell fabulous when you and your guests return home after a long day of holiday season mountain play.

Ingredients for four hungry people

4 (1 to 1-1/4 pound lamb shanks

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup dried red currants, or dried apricots

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Before leaving for the ski hill, preheat broiler and season lamb shanks with 1 tablespoon kosher salt and half of the oil. Place on a baking sheet and broil until dark brown, turning often (about 15 minutes).

Sauté the onions, carrots, and garlic with remaining salt in an oven-safe pan until softened and lightly browned (7 to 8 minutes). Stir in cinnamon sticks and currants or apricots.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Place browned lamb shanks on top of vegetables. Pour water halfway up shanks and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast in oven until meat is fork-tender (6 to 7 hours).

Place lamb shanks on a warm platter. Skim fat from pan, add chickpeas, and place on stove top over medium-high heat. Cook until liquid is reduced by half (5 to 8 minutes). Stir in mint, parsley and lemon juice. Adjust salt if needed.

Remove cinnamon sticks and discard. Spoon chickpea mixture onto serving plates and top with a lamb shank.

These lamb shanks deserve to be served with a wonderful Bordeaux or Burgundy, particularly one with a few years' bottle age, if you can afford it after the cost of today's lift tickets.

Addendum: Lamb shanks are a labor of love—but should you wake up to fresh new powder on Christmas morning, this dish can also be made even easier by purchasing pricey, but so delicious, precooked lamb shanks from Costco and having them company-ready when needed on the days when too much kitchen time is not acceptable, even including some Christmas Days.  

We found that the Costco precooked lamb shanks actually freeze beautifully. Just remember to take them out of the freezer and let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator if possible. 

Have them completely thawed when you cover and roast in their sauce for 30 minutes or so in a preheated 200 degree oven, before basting with sauce and roasting for another 15 minutes at 300 degrees. Plate shanks and sauce on top of white beans, mashed potatoes, or polenta. 

These shanks also look beautiful when topped with finely chopped mint and parsley. The trick is to brown the fork-tender shanks without cooking the sauce underneath down too far. 

Enjoy and have a thoughtful and wonderful Christmas with family and friends. 

Ellen Troyer, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff