Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A filling winter dinner

This past weekend was a test of everyone's patience. Five days of relentless rain, bone-chilling cold. I don't know about you, but I just wanted to stay inside, curled up in bed til 10am, then reading all day in my PJs.

Unfortunately, I couldn't. My family just moved out of our home in CT (where I spent 5th grade through 5 years post-college. Probably the longest period of time in one home). It was, too, a 5 day ordeal, packing and shipping boxes to three different locations. Add to that the weekend's Nor'Easter (my former hometown got hit VERY VERY hard. Schools are still closed three days later!!!), which knocked down trees in our yard, blew water horizontally at our house, and proceeded to blow over our pergola just as the last two moving vans pulled out of the driveway. Go figure.

It was no surprise to me that, come Sunday, when I was grocery shopping for the week ahead of me, that my stomach kept screaming "Braise! Braise! Braise!" I wanted a warm, falling-off-the-bone-tender, comforting meal that I could re-fashion at least one other way to make two different dinners.

My solution? Braised lamb shanks. The issue? Last time, they didn't come out as well as I had hoped. Naturally, I was nervous about revisiting this technique. Little do you know, though, that I pulled a braised short rib for my final exam in culinary school. I have a new fearlessness and eagerness to conquer these little beasts =)

The last time I worked with lamb shanks, I followed a recipe. This time? My intuition. I seared off the shanks, poured off the grease, and then sauteed celery, onion, and garlic in the same pot. Singered (cooked) with some flour until the rawness cooked off. Added some chopped bacon, basil, chicken stock, red wine and turned to a simmer. Covered. And let sit. For three hours, maybe? I kind of lost track. Luckily, you can't really overcook lamb shanks, as long as you do NOT boil the liquid. Low and slow, for however long you have/need!

I made the lamb last night -- the longer the meat sits in it's braising liquid, the better it is. Tonight, I served the lamb simply, with garlic truffle roast broccoli (below). Tomorrow? I have some more whole wheat fettuccine which I may toss with some mushroom and braised lamb shank. Maybe some truffle? Top with some grated gruyere? Another perfect warm winter meal.

Braised Lamb Shanks, My Way:

Grapeseed oil
2 lamb shanks, seasoned well with salt and pepper
4 celery stalks, fine dice
1 lg onion, fine dice
2 cloves garlic, fine dice
4 slice bacon, fine dice
6 stems basil
3 cups red wine
chicken stock to just cover
Butter, to finish sauce

Heat oil til just smoking over high heat. Add seasoned lamb and turn heat a bit lower. Sear meat well on all side and remove from pan. Drain oil and add fresh oil. Add vegetables and season with salt. Saute til translucent (and celery brightly colored). Add bacon, turn heat to medium. Add lamb back to pot, and add basil, red wine, and chicken stock. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Turn to low, cover with top, and let braise for 3-4 hours.

Once the lamb is falling off bone, remove from pot. Strain out the solids and degrease the remaining liquid. Bring to a boil and cook until thick enough to cover the back of a spoon. Mount with a tablespoon or two of butter and season to taste. Serve over lamb shanks. If storing shanks over night, keep in sauce. Simply bring to a simmer before serving.

Garlic Truffle Broccoli

2 heads broccoli
4 cloves garlic, fine mince
olive oil
white truffle oil

Preheat convection oven to 400 degrees. Cut off florets from broccoli. Toss with garlic. Spread on silpat and toss with oils and salt. Add 1/4 cup water and place in oven. Cook until the broccoli begins to turn golden. Turn oven down to 250 and cook til tender. Season and serve hot.

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