Weekends are when I plan the meals for the week. I take a look at the specials at our local gourmet/natural foods store and often plan a couple of meals around what I find at bargain prices. This week, lamb shanks were $2.99 per pound, which sounded like quite a bargain to me.
I’ve had lamb shanks at restaurants a couple of times and they have not disappointed me. I made them at home one time and although I loved how tender they got, the sauce wasn’t a winner. I went online to Epicurious to see if I could find a better recipe and I stumbled onto a soup recipe instead. The soup had quite the greek style influence to it so I was immediately attracted to the recipe.
I don’t often fiddle with a recipe the first time out, but the comments on Epicurious said that the recipe needed some garlic and that sautéing the ingredients in the stock made a world of difference so I tried the suggestions. The soup turned out pretty good but it wasn’t as wonderful as I imagined it to be. Three pounds of lamb shanks were a bit excessive. If you try this recipe, you may want to cut down on the amount of meat. My boyfriend felt the soup was a bit “lamby”. Normally this would be a turn off to me too but I felt like the meat was good quality and didn’t have a gamey flavor. I just felt that the soup was a bit greasy and had more meat than necessary. I would definitely make the soup again with 2 lbs of shanks and I might add another veggie like some zucchini or extra carrots. However, with a multigrain baguette and a glass of 2002 Sunstone Syrah, this soup made a mighty fine meal.
Spinach, lamb and orzo soup
Adapted from July 1992 Bon Appetit magazine
3 tbs olive oil, divided
7 cups water
1 15 oz can chicken stock
2 – 3 pounds lamb shanks (go with the full amount if you love lamb more than anything you can think of)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 dried bay leaf or two fresh bay leaves
1 small onion, sliced
¾ cup orzo
1 large head of spinach, chopped
freshly grated parmesano reggiano
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepot. Sauté garlic, carrot, onion, celery and bay leaf until veggies start to soften. Add lamb shanks and brown them on all sides. Add water and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Simmer until the lamb is tender about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Transfer lamb to a plate and cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bone and cut into ½” pieces. Strain the cooking liquid and reserve.
In the same pot, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the reserved cooking liquid, the lamb meat and the orzo. Cook soup over medium heat for 20 minutes until the orzo is al dente. Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.