Well, feasting anyway. I had two appointments in Omaha this morning, so between them I went to Whole Foods. Just to pick up "a few things I couldn't get here..." You can see where this is going. In the spice section I found saffron, which I hadn't seen there before. The worlds most expensive spice. For only 3 bucks and some change...I've always wanted to try it... In the end it was the color that sold me - deep and rich and russet. Some of you may remember this post about color, and it was one of those moments... Into the cart it went.
At the meat counter I spied lamb shanks. Not only are they one of the most economical cuts of lamb, they are also (in my opinion) the tastiest if cooked properly. They are full of gelatin which makes them very moist and nutritious.
Ok, I have a confession to make. I am a freak about butter. Not just any butter, but really good butter. I have no qualms at all about paying 13 dollars a pound for good butter. Maybe I need help. But hey, I don't buy expensive shoes or purses. I buy expensive butter. It's my thing. So I found this Italian butter, made from the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano:
If you aren't familiar with Parmigiano-Reggiano, do yourself a favor and find some. Cut yourself a thin slice. Taste. You will throw out that stuff in the green can faster than you can say, "WhatwasIthinking,eatingthatcrapinthegreencanforalltheseyears!"
First I marinated the lamb shanks in a half cup of merlot. Seeing as it was a new bottle, I had to taste if first to make sure it wasn't poisoned or anything. Yeah. It was fine. You can't be too careful...
After marinating for a couple hours, pat the shanks dry and brown in some oil in your cast iron skillet.
Remove the shanks and put in a glass baking dish with a tight fitting lid. De-glaze the skillet with the marinating wine and a cup of stock (preferably beef or lamb. I used chicken - it was what I had.) Add 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of tomato paste, a quarter teaspoon each of oregano, thyme and cumin, an 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or less!) and 2 minced cloves of garlic. I also added a pinch of the saffron, just because I had to try it in something. Pour mixture over the shanks in the baking dish.
Cover and bake at 300 degrees for about 3 hours. It should be falling off the bone. Remove shanks to a warm platter. Add salt to the sauce and boil down until nice and thick, reduced by at least half. Pour over the shanks.
I made my favorite squash but added a pinch of cayenne in addition to the other seasonings. Just when I thought that recipe couldn't get any better! Steamed red chard with loads of the Italian butter and another glass of wine rounded out the menu. If you can't tell, I love good food. I really, really do.