Although not “officially” a Jewish recipe, lamb shanks long have been popular with traditional Jewish cooks. What makes this recipe more interesting than the usual comfort-food variety is the addition of black bean garlic sauce, a pungent and thoroughly delicious sauce available at all Asian markets and also 5-spice powder, a richly aromatic seasoning which adds an additional layer of flavor.
12 Shiitake mushrooms
2 ½ cups boiling water
1 3-inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled, thickly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled
¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
4 ½ Tablespoons black bean garlic sauce*
6 teaspoons peanut oil
1 ½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder**
6 large lamb shanks
¾ cup thinly sliced green onions
¾ cup dry sherry
Place mushrooms in bowl.
Pour boiling water over; let soak until mushrooms soften, at least 45 minutes and up to 4 hours.
Strain the mixture, reserving 1-½ cups soaking liquid.
Cut stems from mushrooms and discard; thinly slice caps.
With food processor running, add ginger and garlic and finely chop.
Add cilantro, black bean sauce, 2 teaspoons peanut oil, and five-spice powder.
Process until paste forms, occasionally scraping down sides of work bowl.
Using sharp knife, cut 5 small shallow slits into each lamb shank, spacing apart;
Rub generous 1 Tablespoon black bean-cilantro paste into slits and all over surface of each shank. (Mushrooms and lamb shanks can be prepared 6 hours ahead.
Cover mushrooms, soaking liquid and shanks separately and chill.)
Preheat oven to 325F.
Cut six 18-inch squares of aluminum foil; place on work surface.
Place green onions and sliced mushroom caps in center of each foil square, dividing equally.
Heat remaining 4 teaspoons peanut oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add lamb shanks and cook until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch.
Place 1 lamb shank atop green onions and mushrooms on each foil square.
Pour reserved mushroom soaking liquid and Sherry into same skillet.
Boil until liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of skillet, about 10 minutes.
Spoon 2 tablespoons reduced liquid over each lamb shank, pulling up foil around shanks to prevent liquid from spilling out.
Enclose shanks completely in foil, twisting foil to seal; place on large rimmed baking sheet.
Bake lamb shanks until very tender and meat almost falls off bones, about 2 hours.
Open up foil packets; place each atop bowl of steamed rice, allowing diners to remove foil.
Available at Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of supermarkets. ** A blend of ground anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger; available in the spice section of most supermarkets.
Makes 6 servings.