RETSINA is a Greek dry white wine with resinous flavors because of the wooden caskets it is aged in, that are sealed with Aleppo pine sap. In my opinion, it’s an ideal alternative flavoring for winter dishes, just like rosemary and pine nuts for savory dishes and mastic resin for sweets. Other years, I focused on warmer flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger and orange zests but this year I wanted something fresher & crisper & bolder like winter … and this is what happened to these fine-looking LAMB SHANKS !
Lamb shanks, because they’re smaller, are easier to handle and to fit into a casserole, as opposed to a whole leg of lamb, but you’ll need several. On average, a small lamb shank will weigh almost 300 grams each and larger ones can weight up to 450 grams each and the bone makes up 33% of that weight, before braising. You’ll end up with about 200 grams up to 300 grams of meat after braising, depending on their initial weight, so plan accordingly. One shank can be enough for a regular appetite and two for a bigger eater so I guess this is good for 4 people, especially when accompanied with just as much vegetables.
All you need is one very large 5-liter casserole with a lid, that can be used on the stovetop as well as the oven, to prepare everything and also a smaller mini-casserole to reduce the sauce for a gravy. And if you’re lucky enough with an even larger casserole and a large enough oven to contain this larger casserole, then it’s easier than you think. My oven is smaller than usual (Parisian standards) so I require 2 steps to prepare this lovely dish by separating the meat braising from the braised vegetable accompaniments.
Because last-minute preparations can be stressful, try to organize yourself to prepare stuff in advance, step-by-step and just heat everything up just before serving. You could actually prepare this dish 1-2 days in advance (especially if you need your oven for other preparations), refrigerate it and then assemble and reheat it one hour before serving.
It’s funny how I appreciate these holidays more and more as I get older, even though it also means that as an adult, you need to prepare everything yourself unless you’re hoping to be invited elsewhere. But it’s obvious that this type of personal investment leads to personal satisfaction and heightened enjoyment and appreciation, for yourself as well as your guests.
I wish you all a very MERRY & PEACEFUL XMAS HOLIDAY SEASON . . . :)