SLOW-COOKER BRAISED LAMB SHANKS

This recipe goes to the OMG FILES.

I realize with the heat wave hitting most places in the US of A this may not be too appealing, but keep in mind that my dear friends and family in São Paulo are freezing. My friends in Australia probably shivering a little, so folks, this one is for you. By the way, did you know that no homes have central heating in São Paulo? That means when the temperature is 40 F outside, it is about 40 F inside too.  I remember – not too fondly – the ordeal it was to wake up during winter and cover the distance between bed ant bathroom for the morning shower. The reverse happens in the summer, very few homes have air-conditioning and well, you know how hot a tropical country can get.  But, back to food. This is a fantastic recipe. The crock pot works perfectly for this type of meat. Best if made a few days in advance, so that all those sauce flavors intensify in the fridge. Lamb shanks are Phil’s favorite, he always orders them in restaurants, if available. He was a super happy camper that evening… Even more so because I managed to surprise him. Prepared the braise during the weekend and awed him a couple of days later.  What’s for dinner tonight? Oh, nothing special, just some braised lamb shanks… (not sure why I never got a call from Hollywood).

lamb

 

SLOW-COOKER BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

1 shallot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
6 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup water
2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (I used canned)
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 lamb shanks, external fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup red wine

Put the shallot, celery, carrots,, water, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf in a slow cooker and stir to combine.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until nearly smoking. Add the shanks and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Remove the sauté pan from the heat, pour in the wine and return to medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Add the wine to the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Transfer the lamb shanks to a large serving dish.

Remove the bay leaf from the cooking liquid. If you’d like to de-fat the sauce, transfer the crock pot to the refrigerator, or save the shanks and the sauce in separate containers in the fridge.  Next day remove the fat congealed on the surface.  If you like a very smooth sauce, puree the liquids until smooth, add to the meat, then re-heat the whole thing together.  Alternatively, you can keep the sauce and veggies as they are in the final braising and serve with the shanks.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

meat and sauce

Every once in a while our grocery store will carry cute packages of New Zealand lamb shanks, and sometimes they even put them on sale for a lot less than the “arm and a leg” price tag they normally go for. Fully aware of Phil’s endless love for lamb shanks, I keep an eye for those sales. June started with a few days of cool weather, perfect for this type of meal.

Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks

 

The meat was literally falling off the bone…  I kept the carrots and celery in pieces instead of pureeing the sauce, do whatever you prefer. Served with mashed cauliflower and sweet peas, this was good enough to make me long for winter. Ha! Did I fool you? Probably not. By now  you should know that long for and winter are never in the same sentence for me.

pinterestlambGo ahead and pin me!
😉

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LAMB SHANKS EN PAPILLOTE WITH CAULIFLOWER-CELERIAC PUREE

One of Phil’s favorite dishes is a nice, melt-in-your-mouth lamb shank. When we go out for dinner, if the restaurant offers lamb shanks, chances are he will order it. Lamb can be a bit tricky to cook at home. It’s usually not very cheap, so the pressure not to ruin it goes up a couple of notches. Our grocery store sometimes has lamb shanks on sale, but I usually stay away from them. Not this time. The price was too good to resist, and I decided to face the challenge. Brought them home without any specific recipe in mind, which proves I was in full daring mood. A quick search on the net pointed me to this simple and straightforward method from Fine Cooking, that gave me the opportunity to practice the “papillote” thing. It also gave me the opportunity to drive all the way back to the grocery store to get leeks (sigh). To offset the richness of the meat, I served it with a super light side dish, mashed cauliflower and celery root. Honestly, I think the puree might have stolen the show, it was superb!

LambPapillote
LAMB SHANK EN PAPILLOTE
(slightly modified from Fine Cooking magazine)
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4 medium leeks (white and light-green parts only), cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 strips orange zest, each about 3 inches long
Crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each)
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices
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Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F.
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Arrange four 16×16-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a work surface. Put one-quarter of the leeks, one-quarter of the carrots, 1 rosemary sprig, and 1 strip of orange zest on each square. Season each with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
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Pat the lamb shanks dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, brown the shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer 1 shank to each foil square, arranging it on top of the vegetables. Draw up the edges of the foil to capture any juice, but don’t seal the packets yet.
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Return the skillet to medium heat, add the vermouth, and bring to a simmer, scraping the skillet with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat. Portion the vermouth evenly among the 4 packets, pouring it over the lamb. Dot each shank with a slice of the butter. Fold the foil to form rectangular packets, sealing the seams tightly. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet; it’s fine if they touch but they shouldn’t overlap.
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Bake for 3 hours; then check for doneness by carefully opening one of the packets (watch out for the steam) and testing the meat with a fork—it should be tender and pulling away from the bone. If necessary, continue to bake for another 10 minutes and check again.
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Transfer the contents of the packets to large plates or pasta bowls, surrounding the shanks with the vegetables and juice. Remove the rosemary and orange zest before serving.
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                                                    to print the Lamb Shank recipe, click here
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mash
CAULIFLOWER-CELERIAC PUREE

(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

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1 head cauliflower, cut in individual florets
1 head celeriac, peeled and cut in 1 inch chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium shallots, thickly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
coconut milk (about 1/4 cup)

dash of ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 375°F.
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Steam cauliflower florets until very tender.  Coat the celeriac chunks and shallot slices with olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and with a light browning around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes, moving pieces around.
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When the celeriac is easily pierced with a fork, transfer the pieces to a pan, add the steamed cauliflower florets, and start mashing it all with a potato masher, or use an immersion blender, depending on the texture you like.Turn the burner to low heat, add a dash of nutmeg, and add enough coconut milk to give it a nice creamy feel. Mix well and cook on low heat for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
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You can also use the food processor to make the puree, if you like a much smoother texture.
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ENJOY!
to print the Cauliflower-Celeriac puree recipe, click here

served2

Comments: The most important step in this recipe is taking the time to brown the lamb shanks. I halved the recipe, since it was just for the two of us, but decided to post the recipe as published in the magazine which feeds four.  I confess that I forgot to add the butter on top of the shanks when closing the packages, but that did not seem to hurt anything.

Make sure you have a very big aluminum foil because it is important that the package closes well around the meat.  Also, the recipe called for a cooking time of 2 to 2.5 hours, but I really like the lamb falling off the bone so I did not even bother checking it before 3 hours. Do what suits your taste best.

The mashed cauliflower & celeriac was simply amazing!  If you’ve been following the Bewitching Kitchen for a while, you know I love to play with cauliflower in all sorts of recipes, and you’ll find many versions of mashed cauliflower in the blog.  This is a new favorite.  If you serve it for guests, it will be pretty hard for them to figure out the components, but even if a little puzzled, they’ll be in love with it. Some recipe sources advise to pass celeriac puree through a fine sieve to improve texture, but I didn’t, and it was still very smooth and pleasant. Of all jobs in the kitchen, passing things through a sieve is the one I despise the most, and always find excuses to skip it. My number one excuse is “I do not want to do it“.

This meal would be great for company, since you can assemble the packages and start roasting the meat 3 hours before you plan to serve dinner.  The mashed cauliflower can also be reheated without compromising flavor or texture. One of the wonderful things about papillote cooking is the aroma that is released once you open the package, it will certainly awe any guests!

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BRAISED LAMB SHANKS, BARTOLINI STYLE

Italy is a country we always associate with wonderful home cooking and fun times: comfort dishes, pasta made from scratch, long simmered sauces, loving Grandmas, loud conversations (also the case back in Brazil, by the way) and happy glasses of wine.  If you are fond of authentic Italian food, “From the Bartolini Kitchens” is a spot you must incorporate into your virtual world. I first got to John’s site indirectly, by reading his comments on blogs we both visited. Each and every comment he wrote made me think “this ChicagoJohn is such a nice guy!”  From comments I jumped to his blog, and became an instant subscriber and avid reader. So, if his site is new to you, stop by and while you are having fun there, make sure to check the story of his family, that could very well be made into a movie. Fascinating to read, just as his recipes and recollections of his cooking with “Zia”.

I have quite a few of his recipes on my list to try, but this one made the jump from “to try soon” to “tried and true” in a couple of weeks. Record time, considering that Sally usually performs her culinary magic in anti-warp speed.  😉

LambShanks1

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
(slightly adapted from this Bartolini family recipe)

3 lamb shanks
2 tbsp olive oil
4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
leaves and stalks from the top of a celery heart, about 1 cup
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 sprigs of rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
veal stock (or chicken stock, or water)
salt & pepper to taste
lemon zest for garnish, optional

Heat oven to 250 F.

In a large fry pan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add 2 smashed garlic cloves and sauté until golden. Remove the garlic and discard.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and place them into the pan, browning them on all sides. This could take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and reserve the lamb shanks.

Place all the vegetables into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until some color is achieved. Add the tomato paste and cook until fragrant and its color deepens, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red wine, deglaze the pan well, then add lamb shanks back to the pan.  Pour veal stock so that the level of the liquid comes two-thirds up the meat.  Add the rosemary and bay leaf, season the liquid with more salt and pepper.

Cover the pan and place in the oven for 3 hours or more, moving the pieces around every 45 minutes or so. If the liquid dries too much, add water or stock. When the meat is super tender, remove it and reduce the sauce if necessary by boiling it down on top of the stove.

Serve, garnished with lemon zest and sauce on the side.

ENJOY!

 to print the recipe, click here

LambShanks2

Comments:  This braise is one of those perfect recipes to cook when you will be spending a nice Sunday at home, no social obligations, just playing it all by ear. I actually made it on Easter Sunday, but we enjoyed it next day. Hard to beat a meal like this after work on a Monday.  It made me wonder why I don’t do this type of elaborate advanced cooking more often, like every weekend. Yeah, right. I am such a jokester!  😉

I love to keep this type of braise in the fridge overnight because not only the flavors intensify, but it makes it easy to remove the congealed fat on top.  Interestingly, when I tried a bit of the sauce at the end of braising, I thought that the flavor of the vinegar was a tad too strong.  Somehow it was perfectly balanced next day. The magic of Bartolini Kitchens, working at full power!

We enjoyed this delicious lamb with a smooth cauliflower puree, if you want the recipe, here is a flash back from the Bewitching Kitchen’s past. Three lamb shanks were too much for the two of us, of course. But I have big plans for the leftover meat: a lamb ragú to be served over pappardelle.  That shall happen soon, the meat is waiting in the freezer. Well labeled. Obviously.  😉

Plated

 The smell of this dish while braising is intoxicating. In the best possible way….
No individual was immune to it in our home.

Osky

 

John, thanks for a great recipe, I still want to make your Sauce in the style of Bologna which has been calling my name for a long time!  

 

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