I love Greek food, and one of my favorite dishes is Greek Lamb Shanks In Tomatoes.
When I was growing up my best girlfriend, Denise, lived across the alley behind our home. We were best friends right from the get go. I could see her playing in her backyard and she could see me in mine. My childhood memories are filled with Denise and her parents. She was lucky to have a very warm and happy childhood.
Her family was Greek descent, and her parents owned a Greek Restaurant. It’s funny I don’t remember her parent’s names, back them, you referred to them as Mrs. Lambos or Mr. Lambos. Never would you call them by their first names…never (my Dad would of killed me).
My life intertwined with Greek culture and food because of Denise and her parents. It was always exciting whenever we spent time at their restaurant. I can remember playing there, enjoying being at the restaurant, and sharing in good times and enjoying the food they prepared.
It was often that I spent time with them and was invited over for dinner often. I don’t remember Mama ever cooking lamb, and the first time I had it was when Mrs. Lambos made it. I shall never forget that night, my mouth was filled with flavors and textures I had never experience before.
A criticism of lamb is that it has a strong taste to it, but lamb today has a milder taste than it did 20 years ago. More lamb is imported from Australia and New Zealand. Another criticism of lamb is that it is fatty. Though some cuts still come with layers of fat, in general the meat today is leaner.
Lamb naturally doesn’t have the intra-muscular fat of beef. Second, most of the external fat can and should be removed. If the lamb you are cooking as a lot of surface face, trim away as much as possible.
I remember eating so many traditional dishes, Moussaka, Pastitsio, Spanakopita (spinach pie), Dolmathakia (stuffed grape leaves), Domates Yemistes (stuffed tomatoes with meat and rice) and Keftethes (Greek Meatballs) and so on. But my favorite…
Kokkinisto, Greek Lamb Shanks In Tomatoes
Greek Lamb Shanks In Tomatoes
4 pounds bone-in lamb shanks (can also use 3 pounds of cut up lamb)
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (Greek is best)
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the lamb
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock (or dry red wine) (I didn’t have red in the house and subbed with stock)
1 cup canned tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
1) Generously season the lamb all over with salt and pepper and set aside.
2) In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook the lamb in batches, if needed (do not crowd the pot) until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
3) Reduce to heat to medium, add the onion, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, and measured salt to the pot, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir to coat the onion, and cook until the tomato paste is no longer raw-tasting, about 2 minutes. Stir in the stock or wine and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
4) Stir in the tomato sauce, 1 cup of the water, and the bay leaves. Return the lamb pieces to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer over high heat, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Using tongs, rotate the lamb pieces from the bottom of the pot to the top, cover, and simmer until the meat is falling off the bone, about 1 hour more.
There will be plenty of leftover sauce, great over potatoes or vegetable. If you like a thicker sauce follow below.
Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl or large measuring cup. Skim the fat from the surface (alternatively, you can use a fat separator) and discard; you should have about 3 cups of liquid remaining. Place the liquid back in the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 6 tablespoons water and the 2 tablespoons cornstarch and add it to the braising liquid. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.