Lamb Shanks with Wilted Spinach (Serves 2)
Lamb shanks taste wonderful when cooked properly and they are relatively cheap. However, shanks are the lower part of the leg, from the knee down, and they are tough, so require special handling. Most recipes call for braising shanks in a savory liquid for 2 to 3 hours to overcome their natural toughness, but a pressure cooker can make them tender in 20 minutes. I like the flavor of lamb, so this meal is extremely simple, allowing the lamb and spinach to stand on its own with just a little salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. The big bones in the lamb shanks show prominently after cooking. I feel like a caveman when I eat this meal and that makes it fun.
Prep and cook time: 35 minutes
2 lamb shanks
2 bags of fresh spinach
Extra virgin olive oil
Directions: Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil to pressure cooker over medium heat. Season both sides of lamb shank with salt, garlic powder, and black pepper to taste. Add lamb shanks to hot oil and sear four minutes on the first side and then four minutes on the other side to brown the meat. Add one cup of water. Lock top on pressure cooker. Increase heat to high. After achieving high pressure, reduce heat to the lowest level consistent with maintaining high pressure. Cook under high pressure for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, allow pressure to come down naturally, and remove top.
Meanwhile, add several tablespoons of olive oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add fresh spinach to pan. Add salt, garlic powder, and black pepper to taste. Stir with a spatula. As the spinach wilts down, add more fresh spinach, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and, as needed, olive oil, until you have enough wilted spinach to serve two. Transfer spinach to plates. Add a lamb shank to each plate. Enjoy!
Notes: I save my bones in a big zip-loc bag in my freezer and make stock with them when the bag is full. Cooked (and even raw) bones are prone to fracturing into sharp splinters, so you should not give them to your dog. My dogs think bones look wonderful, but my wife the veterinarian has removed too many bones in surgery from dogs who felt the same way to let ours indulge.
I love my Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Top Pressure Cooker 7.4-Quart that I ordered from Amazon.com. After reading a bunch of pressure cooker reviews, I decided to spend a little extra to get the one the New York Times described as the Mercedes-Benz of pressure cookers. I’m glad I did. Kuhn Rikon is a Swiss company. Pressure cookers are so popular in Switzerland that the average household has three! I have not purchased a second one yet, but could use one to prepare vegetables separately while longer cooking meat dishes are in their final minutes.
Best practices include 1) allowing the meat to marinade in spices overnight in the refrigerator while enclosed in an air-tight container; 2) allowing the meat to come to room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes before cooking; and 3) allowing the meat to rest for 10-15 minutes after cooking before carving and eating. I ignore best practices when I am in a hurry and have generally been satisfied with the results, but best practices do enhance flavor and moistness.
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