Roman Style Lamb Shanks

Roman Style Lamb Shanks

In Lazio, piatti unici, secondi piatti by Frank Fariello18 Comments

Baby milk-fed lamb or abbacchio is one of the wonders of Roman cooking, in particular in the spring. Lamb that young is not often found in markets in our neck of the woods, but the same techniques work well with mature lamb as well. So the other day I ‘invented’ Roman Style Lamb Shanks. I took some lamb shanks I had in the freezer, braised them slowly until the meat was falling-off-the-bone tender, and finished them with flavorings typical of abbachio alla romana, Roman-Style Baby Lamb. The result was certainly different, but delicious all the same. I served the shanks with polenta, a combination perhaps more typical of America than Rome, but all the same it makes a fine combination for a piatto unico.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 4-6 lamb shanks
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Olive oil (or lard)
  • Salt and pepper
  • White wine

For the finish:

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets
  • A spoonful or two white wine vinegar, enough to form a paste

Directions

Sauté the garlic and rosemary in olive oil (or lard) in a heavy casserole until the garlic has been ever so lightly browned and fragrant. Remove both the garlic and the rosemary from the pot.

Add the lamb shanks to the seasoned fat and brown them well on all sides. Season them generously with salt and pepper, turning all the while. Add a splash of white wine to the pot, turning the lamb shanks around once again to coat them well.

Then cover the pot tightly and lower the heat. Let the lamb shanks simmer, covered, until very tender, about 2-1/2 hours or so. Moisten from time time, as needed, with a bit more wine or water.

About 20 minutes before the lamb is done, mash together the garlic and anchovy finely, then add a bit of the vinegar, enough to form a loose paste. Add this mixture to the lamb and mix well. Then finish simmering the lamb.

Serve your Roman Style Lamb Shanks hot. As part of a traditional Italian meal, this dish would a secondo. For a one-dish meal (but not in the usual Roman style but very nice all the same) accompany with some hot polenta.

Notes

They say that meat is sweetest close to the bone, and lamb shanks are certainly evidence for that assertion. I don’t recall shanks being served on their own in Rome, even if lamb was perhaps the favorite local meat. Rib chops, as is the iconic scottaditto, were, of course, very popular, but otherwise the whole baby lamb would be cut up into pieces and prepared just like this. Although shanks are particularly delicious prepared this way, the same method can be used with lamb stew meat or cut up lamb shoulder meat, or even with shoulder chops, adjusting times according. One hour should do fine for any of these other options.

In some recipes for abbacchio alla romana, chopped rosemary is added to the finishing paste, but personally I find that this gives it too strong a flavor. Many recipes call for sage as well as rosemary. Ada Boni, in her classic Talismano della Felicità, tells you to add the garlic, rosemary and sage, all chopped up, to the pot after you have browned the lamb pieces (in lard). If you want a stronger flavor, by the way, add the finishing paste only a few minutes before the end or even at the very last minute. By the way, don’t worry about the anchovies if you don’t care for them—they melt into the sauce as the lamb simmers and lend a savory, but not at all fishy, note to the dish.

By the way, in Rome itself abbacchio alla romana is often called abbacchio alla cacciatora.

Lamb Shanks «alla romana»

Rating: 51

Total Time: 3 hours

Serves 4-6

Lamb Shanks «alla romana»

Ingredients

  • 4-6 lamb shanks
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Olive oil (or lard)
  • Salt and pepper
  • White wine
  • For the finish:
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets
  • A spoonful or two white wine vinegar, enough to form a paste

Directions

  1. Sauté the garlic and rosemary in olive oil (or lard) in a heavy casserole until the garlic has been ever so lightly browned and fragrant. Remove both the garlic and the rosemary from the pot.
  2. Add the lamb shanks to the seasoned fat and brown them well on all sides. Season them generously with salt and pepper, turning all the while. Add a splash of white wine to the pot, turning the lamb shanks around once again to coat them well.
  3. Then cover the pot tightly and lower the heat. Let the lamb shanks simmer, covered, until very tender, about 2-1/2 hours or so. Moisten from time time, as needed, with a bit more wine or water.
  4. About 20 minutes before the lamb is done, mash together the garlic and anchovy finely, then add a bit of the vinegar, enough to form a loose paste. Add this mixture to the lamb and mix well. Then finish simmering the lamb.
  5. Serve hot. As part of a traditional Italian meal, this dish would a secondo. For a one-dish meal (but not in the usual Roman style but very nice all the same) accompany with some hot polenta.
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Frank FarielloRoman Style Lamb Shanks

Comments

  1. rack of lamb

    When people think of a joint of lamb they tend to think of roast lamb and mint sauce, whilst this is truly delicious there are so many other recipes that you can choose using different cuts of Lamb.

  2. Spicie Foodie

    Wow Frank you have me drooling over here! What an amazing recipe and dish. This is definately going on my must try list. I love lamb and trying it prepared different ways is always yummy.

  3. Frank

    Thanks, folks, for all your kind comments!

    @creativecapitolagal: If you're lucky enough to have fresh kid available to you, I'm sure it would be fabulous made this way!

    @The Mom Chef: You're lucky to have that source for your lamb. Let me know how it turns out!

    @kika: Thanks!

    @Angela Pritchett: You're welcome!

    @Ciao Chao Linda: Nothing like Roman abbacchio. I really miss it…

    @Kiethood.com: Thanks!

    @Lori Lynn: Thanks! The anchovy does give it a great taste—suprising to some, but it's true!

    @Kathleen Dedon: Thanks!

    @Drick: We continue to find more and more parallels between Cajun and Italian cooking… amazing, but I guess great minds think alike!

    @Zen Chef: Thanks—from a word-class chef like yourself that's quite an honor!

    @visda: Thank *you* for stopping by!

    @Fr@: Tante grazie!!!

  4. Fr@

    Compliments for your blog.
    I am Roman and the abbacchio alla cacciatora is cooked very well.
    Good-bye!

    :)

  5. Zen Chef

    This is right there, my friend, the perfect plate of food!
    I would travel very far to have a dinner like this.

  6. Drick

    well, now you've gone and done it, this just set me in the mood for grits and grillades… different I know but your polenta with that lamb and beautiful sauce just got me thinking of one of my regional favorites….

  7. Lori Lynn

    Hi Frank – we are huge fans of lamb shanks…this recipe sounds fabulous, I especially like the pairing of lamb + anchovy.
    LL

  8. Ciao Chow Linda

    frank – Another sensational dish. I can still remember the first time I ate abbacchio in Rome. The waiter ( Romeo) whisked the menu from my hand and proclaimed: “Stasera mangerai l'abbacchio piu' buono che ci sia in tutta Roma!” And it was memorable. Your version with polenta looks wonderful too.

  9. Angela Pritchett

    I did not know meat is sweetest closer to the bone. What a great piece of knowledge. Thanks for the prep instructions and all the information.

  10. The Mom Chef

    I adore lamb. It is by far my favorite meat. In fact, just today I found a farmer who raises and butchers his own so now I have a source from which to try this amazing recipe. Many thanks for sharing it!

  11. creativecapitolagal

    This looks marvelous – I'll absolutely try this. My neighbors have an over abundance of does throwing kids this year, I'll be using kid instead of lamb. I think the flavor is pretty similar.

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