By Mark Bittman, award-winning author and columnist for the New York Times
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: At least 2 1/2 hours
1. Combine the lamb shanks, Port or wine, and garlic in a skillet just large enough to hold the shanks. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil; cover and turn the heat so that the mixture simmers gently. Cook, turning about every 30 minutes, until the shanks are tender and a lovely mahogany color, at least 2 hours and more likely longer.
2. Remove the shanks and strain the sauce. If time allows, refrigerate both, separately; skim the fat from the top of the sauce. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill or the broiler; the rack should be 4 to 6 inches from the heat source, and the fire hot.
3. Grill or broil the shanks until nicely browned all over, sprinkling them with salt and pepper and turning as necessary; total cooking time will be about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat the sauce gently; season it with salt and pepper, then add the vinegar or lemon juice. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Serve the shanks with the sauce.
Variation: Anise-flavored Lamb Shanks (or Short Ribs)
Braise the meat in a mixture of 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 cup water, 5 thin slices of ginger, 5 whole star anise, 4 cloves garlic, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Proceed as above, finishing the sauce with rice or white wine vinegar.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.