If we are considering lamb dishes for an Irish dinner around St. Patrick's Day, lamb shanks are an interesting choice. But I must emphasize: when you buy your lamb shanks (one per diner), make sure they have been cracked by the butcher shop. Fortunately for us in Tucson, we have two stores where the butcher counter can take care of this: Sprouts and Whole Foods.
I am not saying that it would be impossible to get your butcher at Safeway or any other supermarket to crack the lamb shanks, but you will have to ask because normally that is not done. If the shanks are not cracked open by the butcher, they will be harder to eat because the meat will be more or less wrapped tightly around the bone, that's all I'm sayin'.
The classic Irish stew combination of meat, potatoes and carrots goes fine with lamb shanks, and if I had one, I would use an oblong Dutch oven to cook them because it lends its shape to the elongated lamb shanks. I do have one, which I got at Cost Plus World Market in Tucson. It isn't very big, though, but I could use it for just two pieces of meat for me and my husband. You can find very high-quality, affordable cookware at Cost Plus, if you haven't shopped their kitchen department for awhile.
LAMB SHANK STEW
1 organic lamb shank per person
1 cup organic lamb or chicken stock per two lamb shanks
1 medium organic onion, chopped
2 organic garlic cloves, minced
6 medium organic carrots cut into one-inch slices
12 ounces organic red potatoes, cut into 3/4" pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground organic white pepper
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup organic stock
1/4 cup organic all-purpose flour
Basic stew: Trim the lamb shanks of fat. Place them in a large Dutch oven, cover tightly, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2-1/2 hours, until the meat is tender.
Bring the basic stew, vegetables, and flavorings to a boil once again after adding the rest of the ingredients. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring twice, until the vegetables are almost tender. Whisk the second cup of chicken stock with the flour until blended and stir into the stew. Simmer, uncovered, 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the gravy is thickened and the vegetables are tender. Taste for seasoning before serving.
This stew is also good made with beef or pork. It also works well to use baby red potatoes in this stew so that you will not have to cut up potatoes.