Last week I talked a bit about the differences between what Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews consider kosher for Passover. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some of our Sephardic friends serve lamb for the Seder, while our Ashkenazi friends do not. Recently I asked Rabbi Olitsky at the Jewish Outreach Institute why lamb isn’t served at the Ashkenazi Seder table. He explained to me that Ashkenazi Jews traditionally equate eating lamb at Passover to eating the paschal sacrifice. Therefore, Ashkenazi tradition has made this meat off-limits during the week of Passover.
There is a Jewish law that prohibits roasting a whole lamb for Passover. However, there is no Torah law forbidding the consumption of kosher lamb meat during Passover (provided it’s not a whole lamb). It’s all about how you read/interpret the meaning of the Torah. In many Sephardic Jewish communities, lamb is eaten on Passover for exactly the same reason that Jews avoid it. In fact, lamb is considered a delicacy, and is often only served for the Passover Seder as a “special occasion” entrée.
So… should you serve lamb during Passover? Again, it’s a question of tradition. If your family has never eaten lamb for the Seder, they probably won’t be comfortable changing things. But in many parts of the world, lamb is the Passover meat of choice. It all depends on how you choose to celebrate, and how adventurous you feel.
My lamb shank recipe can be enjoyed for a Sephardic-style Passover, or any day! In fact, it might just be the perfect meal for those of you wanting to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow. Lamb is a very Irish sort of meat. Enjoy!
A Note About Chicken Powder: The “chicken” consommé powder called for in the recipe is actually not made of chicken at all. It’s a common vegetarian ingredient in Jewish cooking that adds a savory, salty flavor to the dish without the need for meat. You can find it in the kosher section of the grocery store and at most Middle Eastern markets.
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SHIKSA LAMB SHANKS
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large white onion, minced
4 lamb shanks
2 bay leaves
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
2 fresh thyme sprigs
5 whole cloves
1 cup dry red wine (ex. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux)
3 tbsp tomato paste
½ cup tomato sauce
1 ½ tbsp chicken consommé powder
6 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Kosher Key: Meat, Kosher for Sephardic Passover if kosher meat, wine, and Passover chicken powder and broth are used
- Use a potato peeler to remove the peel from the lemon, set peel aside. Juice the lemon, reserve juice.
-Wrap lemon peel, rosemary sprigs, and whole cloves in a patch of cheesecloth, tie up to form an herb bundle.
- Season lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a large, wide pot on medium. Sauté minced onions in 2 tbsp olive oil until they start to brown. Remove onions from hot pot and place them in a bowl; do not rinse pot. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to the pot and add seasoned lamb shanks, sauté until brown on all sides (about 12 minutes). Remove lamb shanks and put them on a plate, return onions to the pot. Add wine, tomato paste, lemon juice, herb bundle, thyme, tomato sauce and chicken powder, bring to a boil. Let mixture simmer for a few minutes, scraping up and brown bits that are stuck to the bottom and edges of the pan.
Place lamb shanks in pot and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer uncovered for a ½ hour. Turn the shanks and partially cover the pot. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 1 ½ hours, turning shanks once every half hour, until meat is very tender.
Remove shanks from the sauce and take out the herb bundle; squeeze all the herb juice from the bundle into the sauce. Skim the fat from the sauce, then simmer the sauce on medium heat for about 15 minutes until it’s thickened and reduced. Taste the sauce; add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Serve lamb shanks over mashed potatoes or polenta; spoon sauce liberally over the lamb before serving. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary on each plate.