Category Archives: Lamb

Lamb Shanks

At some point during the 1990s, lamb shanks were “it”.  Long simmered with a dark, rich sauce and usually served with white beans.  The dish was everywhere.  Until it wasn’t.  Going through lots of cookbooks from the 1800s and 1900s, I don’t really find this dish until around the 1990s.  Not that it couldn’t have existed, but it wasn’t really wide spread.

The most popular cuts of lamb are “leg” and “chop”.  I am rather partial to the “shoulder” as well, but that’s fairly hard to come by in the regular grocery store.  Chops are crazy expensive, so I usually don’t buy them and truly hate when they are listed on a menu as “lollipop”.  Ugh.  Just no.  The leg is very nice and I cook with this often.  Today, however, I focus on the “shank”.

The shank is part of the animal’s lower leg.    As a result, it does a lot of work making the meat very, very tough.  There are a variety of ways to tackle toughness.  Long, low braising and pressure cooking.  This recipe is adaptable to both.  What I love about this recipe is that there is very little active time.  Most of the time you are hanging out waiting for either heat or pressure to do its thing.  Homework, bill paying and all the rest can be done, which is great for this working mom.  Lamb shanks can be on the table in less than an hour with the pressure cooker, or if I get home early, I can start dinner then set about doing my other mom duties.

As a bonus, lamb shanks also give the impression that someone with extreme culinary skills made the dish, when truly, they are not required.  You can’t really overcook this meat and it’s a very low maintenance recipe.

Lamb Shanks
Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 ½ hours in conventional oven, 35 minutes, pressure cooker

¼ cup lard, duck fat or bacon drippings (vegetable oil would be fine too)
4 lamb shanks
Salt and Pepper
1 onion, medium dice
3 stalks of celery, medium dice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons rosemary
4- 5 medium carrots, peeled, large dice.
2 cups chicken broth (brown is preferred)
1 cup red wine (Cabernet -like)

Conventional Oven Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle the lamb shanks liberally with salt and pepper. Place heated oil and brown, about 2 minutes a side. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add onions and celery to the dutch oven. Cook until onions are translucent and celery is soft.  Scrape up any brown bits left over from the meat browning when the onions start to let off some liquid. Add mushrooms, thyme, rosemary and carrots. Cook until the mushrooms have given up some of their liquid. Add the chicken broth and wine and simmer until the alcohol is cooked out. Return the lamb shanks to the pot. Cover the pot and place in the oven to cook for 90-120 minutes, until tender.

Pressure Cooker Instructions:

Please follow your pressure cooker instructions for using your pressure cooker.

As above, heat the cooking fat in the pressure cooker, salt and pepper the shanks and brown them for about 2 minutes on each side.  Add onions and celery to the dutch oven. Cook until onions are translucent and celery is soft. Add mushrooms, thyme and rosemary. Cook until the mushrooms have given up some of their liquid.

Add the chicken broth and wine and simmer until the alcohol is cooked out. Return the lamb shanks to the pot. Make sure the shanks are at the appropriate height level for your pressure cooker. Add the lid to your pressure cooker and cook the shanks on high pressure for 25 minutes. Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and allow to cool down. When safe, remove the lid, add the carrots and return to the heat for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to cool down again. When safe, remove the lid and serve.

My Shepherd’s Pie Disaster


Friends, family (Hi Mom!), I could have posted a wonderful recipe for Shepherd’s Pie with great pictures.  But, it would be lies.  LIES!  This Shepherd’s Pie was a disaster.  Actually, it wasn’t.  It wasn’t a disaster until I added Guinness Beer.  But, let me start from the beginning.

I love Shepherd’s Pie.  The first one I had was at a little restaurant called Galway Bay in Annapolis.  Long before carbs were evil, a dish consisting of ground meat and veggies in gravy covered with mashed potatoes was just awesome.  I could say it was better than pot pie because I wasn’t eating pastry.  Ha!

One of the first recipes my husband and I made together was Cajun Shepherd’s Pie by Paul Prudhomme in his fantastic Louisiana Kitchen.  That recipe was really long and had a ton of ingredients and took us hours to make (not a good call when starting at 6 pm!), but it was fantastic.  I introduced my husband to cajun spicy, which is a wicked combination of white, black and cayenne peppers.  Chicken Big Mamou remains a dish to this day that will live in infamy as the one spicy dish that was just too much for him.    Don’t get me wrong, he ate it, but he did it for “macho” reasons, not because he liked it.  He was sweating bullets and beet red.   My mom made the Chicken Big Mamou and was quick to say, “but I cut the cayenne in half!”.

So, I have a long and fond relationship with Shepherd’s Pie.  Until now.  For St. Patrick’s Day my dear son asked me to make Shepherd’s Pie.  Sounds great!!  Very Irish dish.  I got ground lamb, carrots, onions, celery and potatoes.   And, a bit of Guinness.  Lots of recipes on the internet called for that as the liquid to form the gravy part of the pie.  That was my fatal mistake.

The recipe was progressing so nicely.  The pictures were lovely.  The gravy bubbled up and was the correct consistency.  Then I tried it.  At first is was really good, then it hit you like a bad odor.  What was that awful taste?  I tried again, no surprise, it was still there.  Took it to my husband and before he could get the whole sentence out he sputtered, “honey this is gr…oh God, what’s wrong with it?”.  Exactly.  The Guinness.

So, I could have pretended all was well, changed the recipe from Guinness to “stock” or “water” and gone my merry way.  But no.  If Julia Child can drop a chicken on TV, rinse it off and keep going, so can I.  And that’s what I did.  I rinsed everything off.  Made a new roux, used beef stock and kept going.  Keep Calm and Carry On.  Stiff upper lip and all.  I will even include the pictures.  Fun!  Lesson learned.  Keep Guinness Beer away from the Shepherd’s Pie.
Shepherd’s Pie

3 lbs yellow or gold potatoes, peeled, diced and covered with water.
2 tablespoons cooking fat (lard, bacon drippings, canola oil, etc.)
2 lbs ground lamb
1 medium onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon thyme (dried)
1 teaspoon rosemary (dried)
2 1/2 Tablespoons of flour
2 cups beef stock (or water)
1/2 cup grated Irish Cheddar Cheese
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup milk (as needed to get mashed potatoes to desired consistency)


Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring potatoes to a boil and boil until fork tender.

While the potatoes are boiling, heat fat (I use lard) over medium high heat in sauté pan.  Sauté lamb until mostly done.


Remove from pan and sauté onions, carrots and celery.


Irish flag!!


Return lamb to pan, add spices.  Saute until flour is browned and lost its raw flavor.  Add stock slowly.  Stir between additions.  Add enough stock to bring the mixture to the thickness desired.


Lovely. Tasted awful. The offending ingredient looks on in rapt joy at the destruction wrought.

At this point, your Shepherd’s Pie will be lovely.  Mine needed to be rinsed off and started again.  You do not need to do this step!!  I promised a picture, so here it is.  Rinsed off Shepherd’s Pie :


Place your wonderful meat and veggies sauce in a suitable oven dish.  Remove potatoes, add butter and cheese and mash potatoes.  Add milk until you get the desired consistency.  Place on top of meat mixture.



In the end, it was awesome, despite the hiccup!

Place dish in oven and heat through, about 20-30 minutes.  If you want the potatoes browned on top, add additional butter to the top of the dish before baking.