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Some handsome cuts of lamb in the market

Posted by Sheryl Julian  April 2, 2012 05:27 PM

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The meat case has lots of lamb because thatís what everyone who isnít serving ham on Easter wants. Itís not the baby lambs, which are roasted on a spit by Greeks and other ethnic cooks. What you see in the markets now is lamb from the U.S. (often Colorado) and New Zealand, and a little from New England. Local lamb (Maine, Vermont) is expensive -- frankly, itís all high -- and I think the best tasting. American lamb in general has a stronger flavor then New Zealand, which butcher John Dewar once called ďgrassy.Ē


Last week I made lamb shanks with carrots and onions, simmered in tomatoes and lots of garlic (above), for a friend who cannot get rid of a cough and feels sluggish. I thought he needed a big injection of meat. The American shanks are huge; this pot of three serves at least four, with a generous spoonful of mashed potatoes, of course.


I spent the weekend testing legs of lamb for a Sunday Supper & More coming out on Wednesday. Lamb is tricky to roast. As I explain in the column, you donít get any practice year round, so youíve got this big cut you paid heaven and earth for, and you want it to be nice and pink and moist, not cooked to death.


And on the subject of Sunday Supper, download our new free e-cookbook here. This is the spring edition, heartier dishes for the nights that are chilly, lighter fare for suppers when itís warmer.


We love working on this project, which was highlighted in the Nieman Journalism Lab in Ken Doctor's column. Here is a video with tips for your nightly meals (it takes a few seconds to load).


Braised lamb shanks with tomatoes

Serves 4


4 lamb shanks

Olive oil (for sprinkling)

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 carrots, cut into thirds

2 large onions, roots intact, each cut into 6 wedges

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 can (16 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed in a bowl

1 quart water, or more if necessary

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons black olive tapenade

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)


1. Turn on the broiler.

2. In a roasting pan, rub the shanks all over with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slide them under the broiler and cook for 8 minutes or until starting to brown. Turn and cook 8 minutes more.

3. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.

4. In a large flameproof casserole that will hold all the shanks, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the carrots, onions, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

5. Set the shanks in the pan. Add the water, bay leaf, and rosemary. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and cover the pan. Transfer to the oven and cook the shanks for 1 1/2 hours or until they are very tender and the meat has pulled away from the bone.

6. Skim off and discard the fat from the pan. Discard the bay leaf and rosemary. Stir the tapenade into the sauce. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Sprinkle with parsley. Sheryl Julian

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

The Recipe Box Project:

If you want to contribute a recipe to The Recipe Box Project, please write it below. Also tell us where you got it (package box, cookbook, mom, friend -- include the name). We're looking for the kinds of dishes that people grew up on, that were served at family suppers, that tell a story, that are typically New England, or that you brought with you from a far away place to New England. We will print one of the recipes in the Food section once a month. To ask any questions, write to Debra Samuels, who is overseeing this project, at To discuss your recipes, click here.