Braise; bake; saute; flambe; souve; broil; grill; roast.
What to do with lamb shanks?
Sometimes things are better left to the experts.
I grew up loathing lamb of any kind. It may have something to do with living on a dairy farm and consuming copious amount of beef, or more likely, it’s because I was served lamb at my best friend’s house in high school. Her dad was crazy in the kitchen and always creating something weird and wonderful. One evening, lamb was being served and the smell was not the least bit appealing. I couldn’t get past the gamy stench and no matter how much mint sauce I put on it, the mint was unsuccessful at palate cleansing.
It felt like the meat was coating my throat as I choked it down. I steered clear of lamb for over 40 years after that.
While dining in downtown Guelph one evening, a series of fortunate events happened. Perusing a wonderfully tantalizing menu with a myriad of yummy sounding entrees, when the server asked what I would like to order, I spewed out - ‘the lamb shank please.’
My inner voice was questioning the choice and memories of high school gamy lamb plagued my mind as I sheepishly smiled and felt my hopes of a delicious dinner slip away. While gulping down the appropriate wine pairing, I waited in anxious anticipation for my meal to appear.
Best meal of my life . . . and if you know me, you know I only get enthusiastically excited about just about anything. Seriously, the lamb was out of this world delicious and it is definitely my go to item on the menu for this classy, eclectic restaurant.
I am convinced some things are better left to the experts. Important things like braising Ontario lamb shanks and serving them with whipped Yukon Gold potatoes, seasonal vegetables, finished with a rosemary-merlot jus for only $22. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Since my initial lamb shank adventure, I have purchased and prepared them at home — once. They are an expensive grocery item; sometimes hard to find and even following the Jamie Oliver recipe online the results were not comparable. I’m pretty successful in the kitchen, but I’ll eat out for the lamb every time. I know I can easily spend more than $22 on the ingredients and time prep at home or I can go out, relax and savour the flavour. Option two please.
Living in Guelph has seen us blessed with a growing number of amazing restaurants in the vibrant downtown area. They are varied in looks; location; size and food and drink offerings. Finding the heavenly lamb shank was a surprise. In a restaurant that’s called a cafe and is known for it’s amazing homemade pizza it was an unexpected delight.
So many restaurants and cafes have that one feature item that attracts patrons. As with any restaurant that has a feature, it’s hard sometimes to deviate from that and order other items from the menu. The feature sometimes distracts us from expanding our options. With so much to choose from, it behoves us to step outside of our comfort zone once in awhile and save the feature for another time.
In keeping with this theme, I know the aforementioned pizza-feature cafe has a creperie Sundays menu and don’t I love crepes. I may have to change up my routine and go there for lunch instead of dinner sometime. I can easily get distracted by a scrumptious sounding brunch menu.
While visions of lamb shank dance in my head, I know it won’t be long before I head downtown Guelph again to delight in one of my favourite entrees. I’ll try not to get distracted by the pizza offering, but then again, it’s also an excellent choice. Variety is the spice of life!
This is not a restaurant review column, so, without mentioning any names, let’s just say I enjoy eating lamb shanks in the place that has the best ‘atmosphere’ in Guelph. If you do venture there for dinner, I highly recommend the lamb. If you get distracted by another entree option — enjoy!
Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at www.nancyrevie.com. Her column appears every other week.