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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

The Sleepy Shank

October 1, 2007

The Sleepy Shank

“Drugged lamb shanks missing from clinic.” I can’t imagine how anyone could read a newspaper headline such as that and not take the time to dive into the rest of the story.

I certainly bit.

The story came from the Sydney Morning Herald. I’m not in the habit of reading Australian newspapers, but when I am surfing the Internet, and come across a food-related story, I usually read at least a paragraph or two to make sure I’m staying in touch with the culinary world. This story begged to be read.

It appears that Australian health workers were using lamb shanks to practice syringe techniques at a clinic in Broome, Australia.

Two points: I am glad that health workers are practicing with needles. Over the years I have encountered several medical technicians who could use a little practice when it comes to their shot-giving skills and etiquette. A few select cuts of meat— not a human’s behind— seems like the perfect testing ground. Though, why lamb? I love lamb. What did lamb shanks ever do to deserve such a lowly fate?

Why not pick a less tasty food to abuse? Why not squab, or beef tongue, or even head cheese? I can state unequivocally that I am all in favor of nurses practicing with syringes on pieces of head cheese.

The health workers were injecting the lamb shanks with some type of anesthetic. Up until now the Thanksgiving turkey— with its sleep-inducing loads of tryptophan— was the only food that made one drowsy. Now Australian lamb shanks laced with knock-out drops have joined the fold.

It would seem to me that they could have practiced with water in the syringe and all of this mess would have been avoided. Better still, they could have whipped up a spicy marinade, practiced injecting that into the lamb, and then slow-braised the shanks for a nice Cajun-style lamb meal.

After the lamb shanks were injected, the newspaper article stated that, “they were stitched up and stored in an outside refrigerator.” I have no idea why they didn’t just throw them away, but I am glad they didn’t. Had they disposed of the drug-injected meat immediately, I would have no column this week.

In my mind’s eye I can see the disappointment followed by excitement experienced by the thief. He was probably searching the clinic’s outdoor refrigerator for illicit narcotics and found supper instead. The Australian slang for someone who is stupid is “lamb-brained.” It did not originate with the clinic thieves who stole the drugged lamb shanks, but it certainly applies.

I would guess that the typical food thief probably finds stores of week-old hamburger meat, thin-cut pork chops, or freezers full of deer sausage that have been sitting alone and freezer burned for years. If he lucks up he might come across a pound of bacon or a slice of ham. The Australian food thief probably encounters a few shrimp on the Barbie, kangaroo fillets, or kidney pie.

Imagine the glee when the thief came across lamb shanks. “Fire up the barbie, sport. Down Under osso buco tonight!” And the post meal conversation “Krikie mate, that tucker we knocked off and stuffed in our cakeholes was not fair dinkum. It knocked me out! Wake up you nong. Wake up!”

Note: The preceding paragraph exhausted all of the Australian language, culture, and slang that I possess, most of which came from the Outback Steakhouse menu or reruns of Crocodile Dundee (the first one, not the sequel). The reader will be glad to know that there will be no further cheesy Australian references for the remainder of this column.

The reader might also be glad to know that this is, in fact, is the end of the column.

G’day mate.

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Raspberry Mint Sauce

1/2 cup Roasted Garlic Puree
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbl Fresh Rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Mint, chopped
2 Tbl Sherry Vinegar

1 Boneless Leg of Lamb, 3- 31/2 pounds, butterflied

1 Tbl Black Pepper, freshly ground
2 Tbl Kosher Salt

Place the garlic, oil, rosemary, mint and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Blend together using a wire whisk.

Trim any excess fat and sinew from the lamb. Lay the lamb on a flat surface, and spread half of the garlic mixture over one the surface. Roll the lamb tightly into a cylinder. Tie the lamb with butcher’s twine so that it maintains the cylinder shape. Rub the outside of the lamb with the remaining garlic mixture, and sprinkle the surface with the salt and pepper. Allow the lamb to sit at room temperature 30-40 minutes before grilling.

Prepare the grill. Sear the lamb for 15-20 minutes over medium direct heat, turning every 3-4 minutes. Once the lamb has browned on all sides, continue cooking over medium indirect heat until the lamb has reached desired doneness, approximately one hour and fifteen minutes for medium rare. Remove the lamb from the grill and let rest 15 minutes before carving. Cut away the twine. Using a carving knife, cut lamb against the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Serve with Raspberry Mint Sauce.

Raspberry Mint Sauce

3 Tbl Olive oil
2 Tbl Shallot, minced
1 cup Raspberries
1/ 2 cup Sugar
1 cup Red wine
1 1/ 2 cups Veal demi glace
3 Tbl Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 Tbl fresh Mint, chopped

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine raspberries, sugar, and red wine and simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Purée mixture and pass through a fine mesh strainer.

Return the strained mixture to a small sauce pot and add the demi glace. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the butter cubes while whisking briskly. Stir until all of the butter is incorporated. Remove the sauce from the heat and add salt and mint. Store in a warm place until needed.

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