The shanks of a lamb are among the least prized of the young sheep's cuts of meat, consisting of the upper legs and part of the shoulder or rump. That does not mean they are not used in gourmet cooking though. Due to their toughness, some braise these shanks and make osso bucco by combining them with vegetables and an aromatic sauce. Others go further with similar ingredients by creating a lamb shank soup that serves the same mission of making the meat fall right off the bone.
Making lamb shank soup can be easier than making osso bucco, or it can be equally as time-consuming. This depends on the recipe that is followed. One hails from the Middle East, utilizing a single pot of simmering onion stock. Another is more European, with a braising before being dipped in the soup formulated with wine, animal stock and tomatoes.
To make the Persian style of lamb shank soup, called ab-goosht, a pot of onion stock is brought to a boil with salt, pepper, chickpeas, beans, lamb shanks, turmeric, and chopped onions and tomatoes. This medley then simmers for two hours before peeled chunks of potatoes go in for the last half-hour of simmering. Some chefs de-bone the lamb shanks before serving; others leave the bones in for diners to do with them what they would like. The soup can be served chunky or finely pureed.
To learn the European method of making this stew is to also master the entree osso bucco. This lamb shank soup involves tying up the meat to keep it on the bone, dry-rubbing it with salt and pepper, and then lightly charring it over fairly high heat. After setting the shanks aside, the heat is lowered to medium and vegetables like carrots, onions, celery and garlic go into the same pan until caramelized. Tomato paste, red or white wine, then the shanks and stock follow the vegetables into the pot for a three-hour covered simmer, turning the shanks and stirring the broth sporadically.
Another common addition to this stew is a satchel of gremolata, an herb medley of garlic, parsley and lemon peel, which is removed before service. The pouch is then opened and used to garnish the soup bowls. Other common herbs are thyme, cloves, rosemary and bay leaf. The main difference between this stew and osso bucco is the amount of stock and wine that is used, making the lamb shank soup more of an intensely flavorful lamb shank and vegetables, soaked in gravy.