Jun 15 2011
… And you probably thought I missed it! But since March I’ve been working diligently on that other blog that’s taking up a big chunk of my time. Thanks to any readers who haven’t given up on me yet, because my heart will always be here at Liv Bites.
And I can assure you that I’ve been cooking plenty, even if I haven’t always recorded it. I used to think it sounded so smug when chefs would breezily dismiss recipes, claiming they preferred to “just cook” and “make it taste good.” Confession: Since finishing culinary school, that’s exactly what I do. I’m annoyed even typing it, but it’s true that once you know the basic techniques, quantities aren’t so important anymore.
That’s the case with the dish I’m sharing today. But first, I’ve decided since graduating that my assistant should be promoted to sous-chef. Seems fitting, right? Congrats to the sous — I couldn’t do any of it without you.
Anyway, my sous-chef has an unwritten rule when it comes to dining out: If there are braised lamb shanks on the menu, he’s going to order them. No matter the type of cuisine or the restaurant, he’s tried every one he’s come across. And since braising is one technique I’m grateful to have mastered during school, I wanted to see if my simple style could compare to the ones at Mission Beach Cafe he so pines for.
I’ll share a secret, too. You can use the exact same recipe and substitute chicken, pork butt, lamb shoulder or any other tough cut for braising. The same steps and ingredients will work every time. You’d likely be shocked at home bare-bones my kitchen at home is, but if I can recommend any cooking tool, it’s a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. Treat yourself to one of these, please; I owe it my every success.
Oh, and the verdict. These lamb shanks are every bit as delicious and fall-off-the-bone tender as restaurant offerings, but with a home-cooked feel I may even prefer. Root vegetables — and bacon! — can always fulfill the need for comfort food.
Spring Lamb Shanks
Ingredients (Serves 2*):
2 lamb shanks*
2 slices quality bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp. chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
4 to 5 radishes, quartered
1 yukon gold potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 parsnip, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 turnip, cut into 1-inch cubes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat lamb shanks dry and season with salt and pepper.
In a large Dutch oven, saute the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon, reserving the fat.
Turn the heat to high and place lamb shanks in the pot. Let them brown for 2 to 3 minutes and do not move them. When the bottom side has browned, turn and brown on remaining sides.
Remove shanks from the pot and turn the heat to low. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Add wine, tomatoes, stock, thyme and bay leaf to the pot, and gently nestle the shanks back into the pot so they are partially submerged in the liquid. Crank the heat to high until the mixture comes to a boil.
Once it boils, cover the Dutch oven and place in the preheated 350-degree oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and add in the root vegetables, making sure they are immersed in the liquid. Place the pot back in the oven and cook for another 1 hour. Serve shanks over couscous or polenta, or alone as a stew in a bowl.
*I had a whole serving of broth and vegetables left over after my sous-chef and I ate these shanks. If you’re cooking 3 shanks, you don’t need to increase the quantities of any other ingredients. If you’re serving 4 (with 4 shanks), you can simply increase the cooking liquid to 5 or 6 cups of stock.