If you’re only here for the calorie counts (and I hope you’re not) then this isn’t your recipe. It’s not that it’s entirely unhealthy, it’s just that, sometimes we don’t care. Sometimes we start the day with a good lift and a protein shake, and then we stop caring about our ratios of protein to fat to carbs. Sometimes we braise big, beautiful, fatty lamb shanks with wine and plenty of spices. And we throw a dozen eggs in the blender to make a dozen crepes. We briefly do the math, then move on. Besides, eggs are darn healthy. We shmear the crepes with sweet and spicy pickled eggplant (you know how things get sweet, right? It’s that 5-letter S-word). Then we fill them with that succulent, tender lamb and fold them up in pretty little packages.
To stretch the meat out, as you might want to do for your guests, cook a lesser number of shanks and use the meat as an accompaniment to something else – like a crepe!
Start by cooking the meat a day ahead. Lamb shanks take time, but not a ton of work. All you need to do is get them nice and brown in a hot pan, then set them aside while you sauté some aromatics and spices. Aromatics is just a fancy word for onions, garlic, and in this recipe, carrots too. Then some liquid goes in the pan. Preferably a bold, fruity, rich red wine that you won’t mind drinking later. I won’t argue with Malbec. Once it’s reduced to a strong, syrupy concentrate, the shanks are added back in, along with some broth and tomatoes. Everything gets tightly covered and transferred to the oven for three hours, or until the meat no longer wants to be attached to the bones. Make some plans, in hourly intervals, even if they are just sitting on the couch (my plans were actually to tinker with crepes, but the couch would have been nicer.)
Later on, when it’s cooled, you’ll pull the meat off the bones, shredding and chopping it into bite-sized pieces. Make sure to check that they are bite-sized, several times throughout the process.
At some point, you’ll pick up a jar of sweet and spicy pickled eggplant (hey, there’s only so much we can do on our own – and deciding you want to pickle something with less than a week to go doesn’t really afford you the time to do it yourself.) And you’ll make some crepes. You won’t have to sort through bad recipes and waste dozens of eggs, because I did that for you. If you love crepes and hate lamb (who are you?) these ones would also be great for filling with fresh fruit and ricotta to serve for a Passover brunch. And either way, be sure to keep a few in the fridge (they’ll be good for a few days) for when the urge hits to fashion your kitchen into a Parisian creperie with a jar of Nutella. I’m pretty sure it’s kosher for Passover.
If you really don’t want to fuss around your guests, you can assemble the crepes entirely before they arrive. Just keep them in a warm oven, and bask in everyone’s awe of how good your kitchen smells. You can do it, I promise.
Finally, when it’s time to sit down and eat, I can guarantee there will be at least one person who wasn’t crazy about lamb before quickly becoming a convert. Others will fight over who gets to take the leftovers home (and sure, there will be leftovers, because there’s plenty of other good stuff to go ’round!). I may be exaggerating. Or not. You make these and be the judge.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 meaty lamb shanks (about 1 1/4 pounds each)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon harissa or other chile paste
1 cup dry red wine
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 whole cinnamon sticks
Preheat oven to 325°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large dutch oven (big enough to hold all the shanks at once) over medium-high heat. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Add two of the shanks to the pan dutch oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the shanks from the pan and repeat with the remaining two. Set the browned lamb shanks aside. Pour the fat from the pan and wipe it clean.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the dutch oven and cook the onions, carrots, and garlic over medium heat, for about 5 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until fragrant. Increase heat to medium high and stir in the tomato paste and harissa; cook for two minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook for 4-5 minutes more, until the liquid has thickened.
Pour in the chicken stock and diced tomatoes. Nestle the lamb shanks into the liquid and add the cinnamon sticks. Cover, turn off heat, and transfer to the oven. Braise for three hours, turning and basting the shanks every hour, until the meat is very tender and falling off the bones.
Remove from oven, and take the lamb shank meat out of the liquid to cool. Discard bones. Strain the liquid into a large bowl or measuring cup; cool completely and then skim the fat from the top, reserving the liquid.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred into small pieces.
1 dozen eggs
3 cups water
2 cups matzoh meal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Let the batter rest for at 30 minutes.
Heat a 12″ nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Brush a small amount of oil on the pan. Holding the pan off the heat, pour enough batter in the skillet to make a thin pancake, tilting the pan in a circle to all the batter to spread. Return to heat and cook for one minute, or until golden and set around the edges. Carefully lift the edge of the crepe with a rubber spatula, grab it, and flip it over. Cook for another minute, or until lightly browned. Remove the crepe to a plate, and repeat with remaining batter. Crepes may be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for several days.
Assembling the Crepes
pickled eggplant (a sweet and spicy eggplant chutney that can be found at an Indian grocer, or in the ethnic section of your supermarket)
chopped fresh cilantro
Place the shredded lamb meat in a wide, deep skillet or saucepan along with the reserved pan juices and bring to a simmer. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Place one crepe on working surface and spread half with some of the pickled eggplant. Spoon some of the lamb meat over the chutney. Fold the crepe in half, and in half again, to create a triangle. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling. You will likely have some of the lamb meat leftover.
If you are assembling these ahead of time, place the filled crepes in a large baking dish, and set in the oven on warm. When ready to serve, sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro, and plate with a dollop of harissa, if desired.