I started to chuckle to myself recently, when I was asked by a friend for a recipe for braised lamb shanks.
''You want the whole shank?'' I thought to myself, recalling an episode from years ago, when a woman I knew was hired to cater Passover dinner for a Jewish family.
The meal would have to include a traditional Seder plate, which includes a roasted lamb shank bone, she was instructed. Not being Jewish and unfamiliar with the religion's customs, she relied on her butcher for help with selecting the shank bone.
''I need a lamb shank for Passover,'' she told him. The butcher, apparently even less-versed on Jewish customs than she was, asked her if she wanted ''the whole shank.'' Wanting to do the best job she could, she told the butcher that of course she wanted the whole shank.
A short time later the butcher reappeared with what she could only describe as an entire lamb carcass. He had brought her a whole foreshank from a lamb, which, with its bone, measured several feet long.
She was stymied at the thought of preparing such a massive cut of meat, let alone fitting it onto the Seder plate for serving.
To her good fortune another customer in the meat department was witnessing the exchange and intervened to tell her that all she really needed was a small shank bone to be roasted and placed on the traditional plate.
The butcher removed the carcass and brought her back a small package, and we shared a laugh over the incident. It often comes back to me when I hear mention of lamb shanks.
Passover begins next week, and many Jewish families will sit down to a traditional Seder meal with that small, ceremonial roasted shank bone on the plate.
This is the perfect time of year for anyone who is looking to enjoy the mild flavor of spring lamb, particularly locally raised Ohio lamb, whether it be for Passover, Easter or just a great dinner.
And for the friend who started me thinking about lamb shanks, here's a basic recipe for braising them.
Until next week, have fun in the kitchen catering your own holiday meals.
BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
4 lamb shanks
4 cloves garlic, divided
1 tbsp. lemon pepper, divided
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced into rings
1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes and juice, broken up
1/2 cup red wine or chicken broth
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. paprika
In 13-by-9-inch baking dish with a meat rack, arrange shanks. Make slits in shank meat. Thinly slice 2 garlic cloves and insert into slits. Season all sides of shanks with 2 teaspoons lemon pepper and salt. Roast in 325-degree oven for 1 hour.
In a 2-quart saucepan with cover, heat oil. Saute onion, bell pepper and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, wine or broth, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, sugar, oregano, 1 teaspoon lemon pepper, coriander, allspice and paprika. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes; set aside.
Remove cooked lamb shanks and rack from pan. Wipe out pan and return shanks to pan. Pour on sauce, cover and cook 11/2 to 2 additional hours or until meat is tender. Remove bay leaves. Serve with rice or pasta. Makes 4 servings.
— American Lamb Board
Lisa A. Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.