Four hours to tenderness

If you can get past thinking about whose bone it is, a little lamb shank can be your best friend when you are trying to make something so delicious that it inspires spontaneous affection. I defrosted the lamb shank thinking it was a well wrapped piece of chicken. Once it was room temperature, all I had to offer was carrot, celery, some apricot sized onions that had just been picked and a little parsley that I had washed, dried and forgotten about in the back of the fridge, but lamb doesn’t ask for much.
Take two garlic cloves, cut them in half and get them the tiniest bit golden in a spill of olive oil that you have poured into a dutch oven. Remove the garlic. Season the shank really well, all over with kosher salt (no pepper; pepper burns). Over medium to high heat, sear the shank on both sides until you have a serious chestnut brown color. Remove from the pan. Turn the heat down, add another little bit of olive oil if you need it, and the roughly chopped carrot, celery stalk and about four small onions. Caramelize them and then season with salt and fresh parsley. Get the garlic and lamb back in the pan with the vegetables. Add enough water to come about a third of the way up the shank, cover the pan, leaving the lid a little bit ajar, and simmer over the lowest heat possible for about 4 hours. Don’t leave home, because you have to check to be sure there is always liquid in the bottom of the pan, and every hour or so, you need to turn the shank. If you have a little dry and delicious red wine, add a half a cup to a cup along with the water. I didn’t, and it was sublime just the same. If you can’t start dinner at 3 o’clock, start it when you get home for the next day. It takes about 15 minutes to reheat in the same pan. Serve with potatoes or polenta and a simple salad of bitter greens. The leftovers are great as a sauce over pasta.

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