TI regularly have the urge to cook lamb shanks, and when it does, nothing is enough until I brown five or six in a large pot and put together the ingredients for a sugo. Lamb shanks make a great day in the kitchen, they fill your kitchen with aromas that are exciting to the senses, and when, several hours after you have browned them, you top them off with polenta or pasta or collard greens or whatever. you want and put the first tendrils of meat in your mouth, you will be happy.
I was happy this week because of the lamb shanks, but the cooking was not mine.
The bowl of meat and pasta and olives and cheese and olive oil came from the kitchen to Divine, a confident and comfortable Italian mainstay in Western Alabama in Houston. I had dinner alone at the bar, and I intended to stop at the poultry liver pâté, which I had ordered to accompany my wine (a glass of Carignano del Sulcis Riserva “Rocca Rubia”), but the richness of the liver was too much for me in one sitting, so I pushed it back after enjoying about a quarter of it – and I highly recommend ordering the pate if you are at Divino … just make sure to share this.
The bartender had told me about the specialties off the menu, and the pappardelles seemed promising, as well as the lamb shanks. I sipped the wine and waited, thinking it would go well with the dish. And he did. Superbly so. (I urge owner Patrick McCray to add this dish to the menu, as I’m sure many will like it.)
The tender but tasty pasta was cooked as it should have been – its texture was pleasant in many ways, mainly because it was not mushy at all – the cook had drizzled with a fine amount of oil from the pasta. ‘olive on the whole, and the shiny olives (I believe they were Cerignola or Castelvetrano) brought an acidity that pleased and made the lamb sing. (I usually use black olives in my lamb shank dishes, which are also good, but I will use them the next time I cook.)
River Oaks District
With lamb. I will say with firmness that it was done well, correctly, with good technique. Hocks aren’t the hardest thing to do, but I’ve had my share of the tough ones. This lamb was nothing like it, but it was tender and possessed that quality which gives all the satisfaction of “fat” without the heavy and unpleasant fat.
Think barbacoa. Then gather a bit of each component on your fork – cheese, pasta, olives, lamb – and experience a brief moment of bliss.
Now here’s what I cook on Sunday, and if you like lamb shanks, I vouch for this recipe. It’s from Tom colicchio, and this dates back to 1996 and was featured in Food and wine. Instead of pasta, you’ll use cannellini beans, and there’s leeks and onions and carrots and arugula. Do it. I’ve done it maybe 30 times, and I never tire of it.
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