Lamb shank sous-vide is one of my favorite cuts of lamb. I tend to avoid serving meat or fish with bones when preparing dinner for company, unless I know they are comfortable with it. And so in order to serve lamb shank sous-vide, I decided to debone it first. In the case of lamb shanks that is quite easy to do, and the advantage is that the bones can be used to make a stock to enhance the flavor and make a sauce. Another advantage is that you are not restricted to serving one lamb shank per person, but that you can easily serve more or less.
There is one tricky point about cooking lamb sous-vide and that is that ‘lamb’ is a loose term that can refer to a suckling lamb that is very young and tender (I’m not even considering unborn lamb, which is eaten in some cultures) or to a young sheep, and everything in between. This means that cooking time and/or temperature may need to be adjusted for best results. A general guideline for lamb shank that works for the local lamb here is 48 hours at 62ºC/144ºF, but for the suckling lamb (spring lamb) available right now only 24 hours is better.
Lamb with peas and mint are a traditional combination and it works. The lamb shank and the sauce are both a bit ‘sticky’ due to the gelatin and the mint helps to cut through that. Here’s what I did…
4 lamb shanks
125 ml (1/2 cup) red wine
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, chopped
6 fresh thyme sprigs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp corn starch
600 grams (4 cups) peas, fresh or frozen
4 Tbsp butter
Vacuum seal the meat with the reduced stock. You can do this either with a chamber vacuum sealer (make sure meat and stock are room temperature or preferably refrigerator temperature, as otherwise the juices will boil at the low pressure), or in a ziplock bag using the water displacement method to seal it with as little air as possible.
To make the peas, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the peas. Cook them until they are tender but still firm to the bite. When using fresh peas rather than frozen, you may need to add a bit of water. When the peas are cooked to your liking, season with salt.
This is great with a pinot noir, preferably a ripe one to go with the ripe flavors of the lamb shank. The ripeness can be either from the ripeness of the grapes, or because the wine has ripened in the bottle. A bit of oak (barriques) is fine, but not too much vanilla. We enjoyed it with a Spätburgunder Auslese from the Ahr valley, made with barriques.
You probably all know lasagne alla bolognese, with bechamel and a bolognese meat sauce. In Liguria a different version is prepared, with pesto, bechamel and grilled zucchini. This vegetarian Lasagne alla Genovese is delicious and absolutely worth the effort.