I am told that the most common ethnic mix of my generation is Irish-Italian. I happen to fall into this category, particularly in terms of its culinary implications: When I need nurturing, I turn to the stove, bring a pot of water to boil and almost instinctively pour in a pound of dried pasta; when a man breaks my heart or my patience runs short, I reach for the bottle of Jameson and lovingly pour it over a couple cubes of ice, then watch the cubes rearrange themselves in a pool of my special medicine.
I considered marrying the two cuisines, thinking that, like their human counterparts, their fundamental components could occupy the same space. It wasn’t easy. After several hours of deliberation, a match was made. I would make a lamb osso bucco stewed in Guinness, kale sautéed with pine nuts, garlic and red pepper flakes and gnocchi (potato pasta) sautéed in butter and parsley. It was the perfect combination of Irish and Italian, giving credence to my theory that if two ethnicities have an affinity for procreation, their cuisines can be fused.
Lamb Osso Bucco with Sautéed Kale and Gnocchi
(Osso Bucco translated to “bone mouths,” referring to the hole in the bones which contain the marrow.)
8 lamb shanks
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 small carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 oz. tomato paste
1 can Guinness
32 fl oz. beef broth
In a large casserole, heat olive oil. Salt and pepper the shanks generously. Brown them on all sides on high heat. Remove and let rest. Pour off the fat and turn down the heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery; season with salt. Let soften. Add the garlic and cook for an additional five minutes. Add the tomato paste and mush it into the vegetables until evenly distributed. Cook for a couple minutes, making sure to stir the paste (otherwise it will burn.) Add the Guinness and the beef stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the shanks back into the casserole. Let simmer, partially covered for one hour. Remove the shanks from the liquid and reduce to loose syrup. Serve the shanks alongside the kale and the gnocchi. Pour the syrup over the shanks.