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Lamb Shanks & Orzo

The Challenge

This past week's (or the week before, now) was Lamb Shanks & Orzo, which you can find here or on page 134 of Foolproof.


Let's do this!


Lea's Take:

I was actually really looking forward to making this one. It's right up Mr. Good Eater's alley (as he is my grandfather reincarnated) [Mary: truly], and, of course, this challenge is for him, so I was happy to make something he would enjoy.


Let me tell you... lamb shanks ain't cheap [Mary: but so worth it]. And, naturally, aren't at our vanilla grocery store, so Mary offered to go to the specialty store for both of us (isn't she the best?!). These little bastards are $10 a shank! Insane. But, I got 4 anyway. This had better be the best meal we've ever had.


I also want to note that, in case anyone is thinking of a nice President's Day gift for me, I could use a larger Dutch oven [Mary: You know, Valentine's Day comes before that...seems like a nice, romantic gift. Josh?]. [Lea: President's Day is funnier, don't you know?] [Mary: You're right. Carry on.] The recipe asks you to dredge the meat in flour and then brown in the Dutch oven. Try fitting 4 of these bad boys in my 5-quart one.


Obviously, I browned 2 at a time, but then I somehow had to fit the 4 shanks, 3 cups of onions, 2 cups of carrots, 2 cups of celery, 30 ounces of diced tomatoes (and the juice!), 2 cups of beef broth and 1-1/2 cups of white wine and still be able to put the lid on!


(Surprisingly, it all fit, so crisis averted, but I could probably still use a larger Dutch oven. Thanks in advance.)


Aaaaanyway, I got seriously crabby while prepping this meal (read: chopping all the vegetables). It could've been low blood sugar or not drinking enough wine [Mary: placing my bet on the latter], but I questioned the challenge more than once (as usual). I mean, who am I doing this for?! Does anyone in my house really care? Weren't they happy with the 5 meals I could make? I know Mr. Picky Pants was. Let's just call it a day and quit.


But, alas, the chopping eventually ended and everything went into the oven to cook for 2 hours. Within that time, I was able to wash all the dishes and enjoy a glass of wine while my kitchen began to smell of something delicious and familiar to me. So, then I got excited again. I thought to myself: Self? He's really going to love this.


Mary's Take:

I was super excited about this recipe...I love Greek lamb and orzo stew, a meal called youvetsi, sometimes using lamb stew meat, sometimes lamb shanks. I love braised lamb shanks; they're meaty, saucy and not as gamey as the leg of lamb we enjoy [Lea: "enjoy" might not be the right word here for some of us] on Christmas and Easter. Our church has a Greek festival every year (except during, you know, dampandemic 2020), with lamb shanks on the menu. They're a huge hit with the customers; people point to and select the biggest one in the tray and ask for extra sauce, which is filled with carrots and celery, just like in this recipe.


So, yay! Lamb shanks! And it's a one-pot meal...my favorite kind!


First step is to dredge and brown the lamb chops.

(So, I just called Le Creuset about their lifetime warranty on this pot...the representative encouraged me to file the claim and take my pot out of service...like don't ever use it again. Eek!) [Lea: You know, about that... before we started this challenge, my Dutch oven was beautiful, not a stain or scratch on it (might've been because I used it twice). But now it's getting stained... not like your wreck, obvs, but still. I was thinking it was the sign of a Real Cook, but now you're telling me that's bad?!]


After the shanks are browned, take them out of the (carcinogenic) pot and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sauté until the veggies are tender.

Add the rest of the ingredients, minus the orzo, and return the shanks to the pot.

Pop it into the oven for a couple of hours, and wash all your dishes so you can glide into dinner with that glass of wine in hand, like a pro. (You may want to sprinkle a little flour on your face so people think you worked hard at this meal.) [Lea: Now you tell me.]


Mine were tender before the recommended 2 hours, so I went ahead and added the orzo early. I'd start checking for doneness at 1.5 hours to see how it's going.


20 minutes later, your feast is ready!



The Verdict

Lea: Well, I thought it was wonderful. It reminded me of a meal we ate a lot as kids and that, for me, meant it was a success.

Josh: It's good. [seriously, you can't give me more than that?!]

Mr. Picky Pants: It's better than the last one. [not exactly a winning endorsement, but not a total loss either]

Mr: Good Eater: Sidenote: We had made tacos the night before. Mr. Good Eater had said he'd try the challenge meal, but he really wanted the taco leftovers. I put a little of the lamb on his plate, he took a bite and said: "Yeah, I'm going to need more of that."


Lamb 1, tacos 0!


Mary: So, so good. The sauce was lighter than the Greek sauce, and not as oily, which I liked more.

John: These may be the best lamb shanks I've ever had. (Isn't that the kind of praise we want from all our meals?) [Lea: Right! Instead, I get things like, "It's good." Baah!]


And here's how I like to serve it: with a shower (perhaps better described as a downpour) of Pecorino Romano [Lea: Can't you just say cheese?!] [Mary: Well, I could, but then someone might think I meant the horror from the green shaker can and I can't have that.] and feta on the side. The best.



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