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Lamb shanks and a good red wine

This week, Vin Greco shares with us his friend Chris Tossell's delicious recipe for lamb shanks
lamb shank stock
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My friend, Chris Tossell, now retired, is well-known for his work on conservation and restoration of many of Sault Ste. Marie’s historic buildings. Less well-known is that he is also an excellent home chef.

Chris is originally from Wales, and we often see images of sheep dotting the green hillsides. It is entirely natural that Chris’s delicious signature dish would feature lamb, as is the case with Lamb Shanks.

The shank, generally, is usually from the lower leg of the animal, and is customarily sold — and cooked — bone-in. While it takes time to prepare and cook, the dish can easily be prepared a day or two ahead, and simply warmed through when you wish to serve it.

The following recipe is the one that Chris is happiest with and usually uses. It is adapted from a 1992 issue of Gourmet Magazine.

Chris Tossell’s Braised Lamb Shanks

  • 6 lamb shanks (about I pound each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Two 28- to 32-ounce cans tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crumbled dried rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground all spice
  • I tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

Pat the lamb shanks dry, season them with salt and pepper, and in a large heavy pot or Dutch Oven, brown them, 3 at a time, in the oil over moderately high heat, transferring them as they are browned to a roasting pan just large enough to hold them in one layer.

To the pot add the onion, cook over moderate heat, stirring until it is softened, then stir in the garlic. Cook the mixture for 3 minutes, and then stir in the tomatoes, the wine, the broth, the dried rosemary, the allspice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and bring the sauce to a boil.

Ladle the sauce over the lamb shanks. Braise the shanks, covered tightly with foil, in the middle of a preheated 350° F. oven for l 1/2 hours, or until they are tender. Transfer them to a heatproof platter, and keep them warm, covered.

Pour the sauce from the roasting pan back into the pot, and boil it for about 10 minutes, or until it is reduced to about 4 cups.

As mentioned, the lamb shanks and sauce may be made 2 days in advance, cooled to room temperature, and kept together in the roasting pan, covered and refrigerated.

When you are ready to serve, re-heat the lamb shanks in the sauce in a preheated 350° F. oven until they are hot and transfer the shanks to a heat-proof platter. Into the sauce stir 2 teaspoons of the parsley and 2 teaspoons of the fresh rosemary. Divide the shanks among 6 heated plates, spoon the sauce over them, and sprinkle it with the remaining parsley and fresh rosemary.

Serves 6

For a dish like this, a good red wine fits the bill. Available now until mid-August as Limited Time Offers from Argentina are some great value reds that are recommended highly by

Kaiken ‘Selección Especial’ Malbec 2018, $13.95, in Vintages is made according to biodynamic principles (over-the-top organic).’s Vic Harradine refers to “a tang-laden flow of red currant, black cherry and sprigs of savoury herbs blanketing the palate and persisting through the dry, warm finish.

The following three are all on the regular list.

La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, $14.50, “envelops the palate with a creamy-smooth, medium-plus bodied stream of ripe, juicy black cherry and bramble berry flavour cloaked in excellent tang and acidity. It’s balanced… dry and flavourful.” 91

Alamos Malbec 2018, $14.00, “shifts into high gear on the palate with a stunning surge of rich ripe black currant and black plum decorated by savoury herbs and oodles of tang-infused pizzazz. It’s medium-plus weight with smooth as silk texture and a lingering, fruit-forward, nicely balanced finish.” – 92.

Trapiche ‘Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, comes from hand-harvested fruit that underwent a natural, softening malolactic fermentation and was matured in oak for 9 months. All this care, and it sells presently for $11.45! Creamy, flavourful and pure, it offers a “medium-bodied stream of delightful flavour with black currant and red cherry adorned with grilled savoury herbs and mixed spice from twist top to last drop,” Harradine tells us. – 91.

For a different experience, consider the Ruffino Modus IGT Toscana 2017, on the July 11 Vintages release from Italy for $29.95. This fits into the “Super-Tuscan” family, made as it is with ah healthy proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In fact, it is almost an equal blend of those two grapes and the native Sangiovese, the classic basis for Chianti.

It has ample dark fruit cloaked in a moderate tannin. It is poised, balanced and long, a wine that invites you to stop and think . . . and then to have another sip. This would be ideal with the lamb shanks, such that the flavours of the wine and of the dish would play off one another, enhancing the enjoyment of both.