Lamb Shanks with Arugula & Cannellini Beans

When we were in Napa last month (goodness, was it only last month?) I bought several packages of dried beans from Rancho Gordo. The beans keep staring at me from the pantry... then this week my butcher had the most lovely-looking lamb shanks... so this recipe was hatched in my little brain.

The lamb shanks need four hours roasting time, but you are rewarded with flavorful meat that falls off the bone. Don't worry too much about the size of the chopped veggies needed in the stewpot - they will be discarded before serving. If you can't find lamb shanks, veal shanks would work as well. This recipe serves two.

Extra-virgin olive oil
2 lamb shanks, about one pound each
Salt & black pepper, to taste
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 large yellow onion, coarse chopped
1 large handful fresh basil leaves, coarse chopped
1 cup dry red wine (I used an Italian Valpolicella)
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch 
2 oz fresh baby arugula leaves (two large handfuls)
One 15 oz. can cannellini beans (or about 1 cup cooked large white beans)
Additional fresh basil leaves as garnish, if desired

My butcher, at New Seasons Market, carries lamb from the Umpqua Valley Lamb ranch in Riddle, Oregon. (Pronounced Um-kwah, by the way... that pis virtually silent.) The sheep are pasture-raised and antibiotic-free.

You will need a heavy Dutch oven type dish, with a heavy lid, that can go from stovetop to oven. I used my 5-quart Le Creuset French Oven. (And, yes, it is blue.)

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat a Dutch oven over a medium flame and coat the bottom with olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the lamb shanks and brown in the hot oil, turning to brown all sides. Remove the browned lamb shanks to a plate.

Add the onion and garlic to the Dutch oven and stir for three or four minutes, or until the onion is soft. Do not let the onions burn!

Remove from heat. Pour the wine and chicken stock over the onions, add the fresh basil leaves and stir well.

Nestle the browned lamb shanks into the stock. Cover and place in the oven. Roast for two hours. Remove from the oven and carefully turn the lamb shanks over. Cover and return to oven for two additional hours.

Remove from oven and carefully place the lamb shanks on a plate and cover tightly with foil. (The meat will be virtually falling off the bone - I used tongs to brace the shanks from the top and used a metal spatula to lift from the bottom.) 

Pour the stock through a mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Discard the onion mixture. Heat the stock until just boiling. Taste for salt and add if needed. Mix one teaspoon of the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water, and slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the sauce while constantly whisking to thicken the sauce a bit. Add the rinsed and drained beans to the hot sauce, just to heat through, about three minutes.

Place a large handful of fresh arugula leaves in the bottom of two pasta bowls. Use a slotted spoon to remove the warmed beans from the sauce and distribute evenly over the arugula. Place one lamb shank over the beans in each plate. Ladle the sauce evenly over the lamb shank on each plate. Garnish with a bit of slivered basil leaves, if desired.

Serves two.

Until my next update, I remain, your "I'm gonna hafta to run 300 miles in the morning" correspondent.