This is one of my all-time favorite recipes.
Good food evokes fond memories…
During the 1970s my parents fled New York and bought a postcard-perfect farmhouse in Vermont. We had our own pond, a river ran through our garden, our neighbors were farmers and the only shop in the whole village was a tiny country store owned by 4 siblings in their 90s – none of whom had ever married. My dad, who grew up in the Bronx, and my mom, who came from country-club Connecticut, started their own American dream by settling in Shrewsbury, Vermont.
10 years later…….they were divorced.
The fairy tale did not end as they expected. But for the first 8 years of my life I was a true country kid. I played in pastures and had imaginary friends because our closest neighbors lived a mile away. One of my fondest memories were our sheep. My parents were not farmers. They were hippies from the Tri-State area. But my mom did have a vegetable garden and we had sheep. Bert & Ernie, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher…….. A true farmer might warn you against naming the animals you plan to slaughter but, like I said, they weren’t farmers……….
By the time I was a pre-teen divorce had waived it’s wand and I was living in the suburbs of Manhattan. There wasn’t a sheep in sight – except on the cashmere sweaters of the PTA moms – but my mom still prepared roast lamb with mint sauce while dancing to Simon and Garfunkel in the kitchen.
Now I live in France. Life is weird…… Just like my parents, love brought me here and, like them, it didn’t work out. But now, even at the age of 42, whenever I think of lamb I think of Shrewsbury, VT,…… Bert & Ernie,… Simon & Garfunkel…. When my girls are 42 and think of lamb what will they remember about growing up in France?… Souris d’agneau in Valbonne village? Feeding sheep on the hills of Gourdon? Sunday roast lamb at Auntie Lou’s (friends who have become family). Or mummy’s lamb shanks which fill the house with smells of rosemary and orange?
I don’t know what their memories of lamb will be but I do know that I am trying to fill their memory banks with many options. If there is one universal truth it is that we can never predict what life will bring. But another is that our relationship with good food starts early….. and if we water the grass for our children it will grow……
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- olive oil
- ½ onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (14 oz/400g)
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 small bay leaf
- 4 large lamb shanks
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 2 red onions, diced
- 12 cloves of garlic
- 1 orange, cut in to 8 wedges
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- ½ cup good quality olives
- 1 cup/240 ml of dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- zest of 1 large orange
- To make marinara sauce:
- Sauté minced onion and garlic in a glug of olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon dried basil, ¼ teaspoon dried oregano and a bay leaf.
- Simmer over very low heat for 15-20 minutes.
- For Lamb:
- Preheat oven to 375F/180C
- Season shanks generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat olive oil in a large casserole dish with lid over medium-high heat.
- Add shanks and sear on all sides, lowering heat to medium if need be, until shanks are nice and brown on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Lower heat to medium-low and add red onions, garlic cloves, and orange wedges and cook until garlic is softened, about 8 minutes.
- Add rosemary, olives, wine, chicken stock and marinara sauce and bring to a boil.
- Add the lamb shanks back to the pot and bring again to a boil.
- Cover the pot tightly with a lid and place in preheated oven and cook for 1-1½ hours until the lamb is fork tender.
- Serve with risotto or polenta (recipe to come)