Braised Lamb Shanks
Note: this is a slightly bastardized version of a recipe by a wonderful chef named Andrew Carmellini. His cookbook, Urban Italian, is well worth a purchase. I use it all the time.
Don’t let all the ingredients scare you away. This really is very easy and, save the browning of the meat, pretty effortless. Since the veggies and herbs are discarded, you don’t even have to be refined with your chopping.
If you can, make it the day before and it will taste even better for dinner. It is very easy to double this recipe if you have more than 4 guests. And while it is fun to serve each person one big shank, if you have, say, 10 or 12 people, you can make 8 shanks and just give everyone hunks of meat, artfully arranged with sauce over the polenta. No one will complain, I assure you.
Do NOT miss the risotto recipe at the bottom, using the leftovers. This recipe alone is a reason to make the shanks.
– 4 lamb shanks at room temperature, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper
– 1 large onion, chopped roughly
– 2 carrots, chopped roughly
– 2 stalks celery and leaves, roughly chopped
– 1 large fennel bulb, roughly chopped
– 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
– 4 cloves garlic, smashed
– 1 or 2 small red peppers, crushed
– 2 T tomato paste (or a large squirt out of a tub)
– 1 T flour (optional if going glute free)
– 1/2 lemon
– red pepper flakes
– bay leaves
– 1 cup dry red wine
– 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
– 1/2 cup good quality black olives
– balsamic vinegar
– dried oregano
Preheat oven to 375.
Heat a couple of glugs olive oil over high in a deep pot or roasting pan you can put in the oven. (Ideally it has a cover, though if it is a large roaster without a lid, you can cover tightly with foil.) Sear lamb shanks to get them nice and brown, turning every which way to get all sides brown. This should take about 15 minutes. Do them in batches if need be. Remove the shanks to a plate. Drain all but 2 or 3 T of fat, trying to keep the wonderful browned bits in the pot.
Lower heat to medium and add onion, fennel, carrots and celery. Stir to coat in fat and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato, red peppers and garlic. Cook a few more minutes, stirring.
Add the tomato paste. Mix well and cook a minute or two. Add the flour if using, mix well and cook, stirring, until the liquid in the pan forms a paste.
Add the wine, along with: lemon, a few good shakings of red pepper flakes, a few bay leaves, a few thyme sprigs, a few rosemary sprigs. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and let cook until the wine reduces significantly and glazes the vegetables. (The liquid doesn’t need to totally disappear.)
Add the broth, return the shanks to the pot, and cover the pot. Again, if you don’t have a lid for the size of pot you use, just cover tightly with a few layers of foil. Put in your oven. Braise about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender and might fall from the bone. I usually turn the shanks once, halfway through.
When done, remove pot from oven and remove shanks to a plate. Strain the sauce through a fine strainer, PRESERVING the liquid. Push on the veggies and herbs to get all the liquid out, you don’t want to miss any of this goodness.
Return strained sauce to the pot.
(At this point, if you are making it the day before, add the shanks back in, let cool completely, then cover and stick in the fridge overnight. Return to room temperature the next day, keeping in mind the sauce will be very gelatinous. It should be. Rewarm in the oven on a low temperature (300 is good) until the sauce returns fully to liquid and the meat is warming through, about an hour.)
Add the olives, a tablespoon or two of balsamic and a few shakes of dried oregano. Mix all and let come to a nice warmth. Taste the sauce, adding salt and pepper if need be.
NOTE: at this point, one thing I like to do is take 2 or 3 cups of the sauce and reduce it in a separate pot, to make a much thicker, silkier sauce. While you don’t need to do this, it can make a lovely sauce to put over your lamb and polenta. Reducing a sauce means simply bringing it to a low boil and letting it cook, usually 10-15 minutes, until it reduces by half and gets thick.
To serve: Put a healthy dollop of polenta on a plate, top with a shank, and drizzle lots of sauce all over, making sure everyone gets a few olives. Heaven.
– 2 cups polenta (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
– Chicken or vegetable broth
– 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Prepare the polenta according to the instructions on the package, using broth instead of water. As they finish, add a few pads of butter, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Stir, cover and let sit a few minutes. Divine.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
If you think you don’t like Brussels Sprouts, you simply have not had them prepared properly. There are a number of ways to cook them. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Fenniger have a wonderful recipe they swear will convert even a staunch brussels sprout hater. I agree. You can find it here, it’s terrific.
But I also love simple, roasted brussels sprouts. If you can find small brussels sprouts, roast them simply in olive oil, salt and pepper. They are better than popcorn and just as addictive. The addition of a little shallot, as below, add even more flavor and make them perfect for any meal.
– Brussels Sprouts (halved if large)
– Shallots, sliced
Toss your sprouts and shallots in a glug or two of olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 for 45 minutes. If they are large, you may need an hour. I like to do this in a cast iron skillet but any oven safe pan will do.
Sautéed Winter Greens
– 3-5 bunches of swiss chard, kale and/or beet greens, torn into large pieces (remove from stems)
– 1/2 cup shallot or onion, finely chopped
– 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
– white wine
– chicken or vegetable broth
In a large pot, sauté shallot or onion in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the greens, in large handfuls, and stir, coating the greens with the oil. As they cook down, keep adding greens to the pot until you have used them all. Add glugs of white wine and broth as you go, enough to keep the greens moist. You don’t want them swimming in liquid. Keep rotating the greens in the pot (tongs work great here) until you get them to your favorite consistency. Sometimes I like my greens crisper, sometimes I love to cook them way down. The more you cook them, the more greens you will need, as they reduce quite a bit. Add salt and pepper as you cook, tasting as you go.
This is a throw together recipe that is very hard to mess up. Cut your apples, toss with the ingredients and roast. While I find they turn out better roasted in the oven, if you don’t have the oven space, they work very well cooked in a pot on the stove. And while I love the combo of ingredients/flavors below, you can remove any you might not like, or use a different liquor, or none.
– Apples (about 2 per person) I like to use a mixture of Gala and Granny Smith, though most any will do.
– butter, melted
– Dark rum
– Brown Sugar
– Vanilla Extract
– Almond extract
Cut your apples in large chunks, discarding the core and seeds. No need to peel them! No need to be uniform. Toss the apples with a little cinnamon, a little minced clove, a splash or two of rum, a dash or two of each extract, and just a little sugar. (Apples tend to be so naturally sweet, you don’t need to add much sugar.) Then add your melted butter and toss again. Taste them, adding more of anything you think you need. Think apple pie without the pie crust.
Roast in the oven on 400 for 30 minutes to an hour. The longer you roast, the softer they get. I’d avoid getting them so soft the mush into applesauce. I like them just a little crisp. But roast to your favorite consistency. Serve with Salted Caramel ice cream, recipe below.
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Click here for the best ice cream you have ever tasted, at least if you like caramel. Or even if you think you don’t.
I add a little more salt than the recipe. And sprinkle a little on top at the end.
Also, they should warn in the recipe it is a bit alarming when you mix it all together towards the end and it ‘freezes up’ into candy. But just keep whisking and whisking over heat… and whisking… it all works out all right. And is so worth the effort.
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