San Francisco’s Ferry Building Farmers Market is much more than the outdoor stalls which attract crowds a couple of days each week. There are all sorts of shops inside the building selling everything from kitchen gear to local caviar. The cheese shops are outstanding, the bakeries are great, and the mushroom place has a huge choice of the freshest specimens. For the carnivores, there are several great shops, but a favorite of both Sarah and me is Prather Ranch. We bought four succulent lamb shanks already done up in plastic, but clearly very fresh. These would be the centerpiece of our farmers market meal.
After getting the lamb shanks home, Sarah browned them in a huge Magnalite casserole along with a couple of cloves of smashed garlic and some aromatic vegetables: carrots and onions. Chefs seem divided over the use of celery in the classic mirepoix combination of onions, celery, and carrots. Some refuse to use celery as they think it is too bitter. Whatever your own personal bias might be, be sure to brown the lamb shanks in some oil and your choice of vegetables. Add some stock or water and a good slug of red wine. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in a generous handful of fresh thyme and Mediterranean (not Mexican) oregano. Bring to a boil, and then cover and reduce the heat to the lowest simmer.
Some purists insist on using rosemary and garlic as the classic seasoning for lamb. You can do that instead if you prefer, but I can guarantee that thyme and oregano work beautifully.
Sarah finished her dish over low heat on the stove top, turning and basting frequently as well as skimming off excess fat. If you prefer, you can braise the lamb shanks, covered, in the oven at low heat – no more than 250°F. Be sure to check the pot frequently and skim the rendered fat. Plan to braise the shanks for at least 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is well done, tender, and falling off the bone.
When they are done to your liking, remove the lamb shanks to a platter and serve them immediately while still warm.
Lamb shanks vary greatly in size, but in most cases you should allow one for each diner. With only three of us and four lamb shanks we wound up with leftovers.