Most people have never eaten, or even considered eating, lamb shanks. Let me rephrase: Most AMERICANS have never considered it. Because, certainly, they’re common enough in the rest of the world – particularly the Mediterranean and Middle East. For some reason, though, lamb has an odd reputation in America and most Americans seem afraid of going anywhere near it.
My grandmother immigrated from Scotland, land of sheep, so my mother grew up eating plenty of lamb. And, therefore, I did too. But I’d never made shanks until about 10 years ago when my mother found this recipe and started making it. And I was instantly in love.
I love a good roasted leg of lamb as well as the next (non-American) person. But these shanks are now my favorite form of lamb. They are so tender – just falling off the bone, melting in your mouth, tender – and full of exquisite flavor. Probably because they’re so common in the middle east, this recipe has tons of spices.
Don’t be scared! It looks like a lot of flavor, but I promise you it’s PERFECT.
The thing with shanks is that they have to cook for a really long time to make them tender. There’s a pretty strong facia (or whatever) covering all the meat that needs to be cooked slowly to tenderize them. This is not a meal you can whip up in half an hour. So, this is a meal for a day off or a weekend. Or if, like me, you do your work at home it can be an any-day-of-the-week meal! But it’s especially good on cold, rainy, or blustery days. The perfect warm-your-bones sort of meal!
When I was very small, my mother worked at a restaurant owned by a German guy named Heinrich. Heinrich named the restaurant after himself. Or, rather, after the nickname for the name “Heinrich.”
Do you know the nickname for Heinrich?
Do you see where this is going?
Yes. Dear old Heinrich named his restaurant “Heinie’s.” I am not joking.
One would think that having a name that is the slang term for one’s butt would have turned people off from wanting to eat there, but he actually did pretty good business. And he apparently had pretty good food.
One of the dishes that he made was something called Tallerine. Until precisely 5 minutes ago, I’d always believed he invented this dish, because I’ve never met anyone else who knew about it. I searched online just to make sure, though – you know, so that I wouldn’t be wrong on the internet – and was surprised to find tons of pages about it. So, Heinie didn’t invent it. But he did give my family the idea for making it, and I’ve never in my life met anyone else who knew about it, so he still gets the credit as far as I’m concerned!
Tallerine (or my version of it, at any rate) is pasta, ground beef, tomatoes, corn, and spices mixed together and then baked with shredded cheddar cheese on top. It’s a simple and yet delicious combination of flavors, and is a staple in our house because it’s so easy and is an all-in-one dish. I’ll often make the meat part ahead of time and freeze it, so on busy days all I have to do is thaw it and make the pasta, and then stick it in the oven. This is a great recipe to have in your repertoire to pull out when you don’t know what else to make!