Recipe: braised lamb shanks with lentils
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I’ve been a good girl.
I’ve been cleaning out my freezer. People keep telling me I just need to buy a second refrigerator/freezer, but I can only imagine how much more food I could potentially squirrel away and forget about if I had two freezers. No, it’s good to rediscover those little gems squished alllll the way in the back corner while they are still recognizable and consumable. So when Lava Lake Ranch shipped me some of their beautiful 100% organic, grass-fed lamb cuts earlier this month (FTC disclosure), I was determined to use the largest pieces – the shanks – first, to keep the volume of frozens down in my freezer. As luck would have it (or negligence, you pick) there were two more hind shanks from Lava Lake buried under several bags of green chiles on the lower shelf. Four shanks in total… sweet.
Knowing next to zippo about lamb, I asked the twitterverse if I should braise or roast the lamb shanks. Overwhelmingly, the twitterverse replied BRAISE. Lately I have had a hankering for lentils and thought what better way to enjoy the lamb than with lentils? Not to mention, there is nothing quite delightful as a slow-braised dish on a cold evening in the Colorado Rockies. So here’s the odd bit about this post… I can’t reproduce the recipe here, but I can list the ingredients and I describe what I did to make it. You can always head over to the Seattle Times for the original (but they don’t have pictures).
The first step after preheating the oven to 350°F was to sear the seasoned lamb shanks in a little oil on high heat in a Dutch oven. Searing all sides took about ten minutes for me, but it was worth it for the fond (that lovely brown crust) you get on the bottom of the pan. That’s the good stuff. That’s the FLAVOR.
cracked peppercorns, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, onion
salt and pepper to season the shanks
After removing the shanks to a plate, I had to add a bit more oil to sauté the onions, garlic, herbs, and spices. According to the recipe, I was supposed to have lamb fat left after the searing, but this lamb is pretty lean (either that, or I trimmed all of the fat before searing – it’s not like I know what I’m doing here). When the onions softened up, I added the amber ale and the chicken broth to the pot. Be sure to stir it about and dissolve the fond from the pan. Remember what I said about FLAVOR? Not only does it give your broth great flavor, but it makes cleanup so much easier. Once the liquid came to a boil, I placed the shanks back into the pot, put the lid on tightly, and set the whole thing in the oven for 90 minutes.
keep that fond in the pan
pour in the beer
place the seared shanks into the liquid
While the lamb shanks were braising away in the oven, I fine diced the vegetables: parsnip, carrot, celery, and leek. Personally, I would double the amount of vegetables the next time – they’re so very wonderful. I’d probably increase the amount of lentils too. It’s a meaty dish, so I tend to prefer a balance with more of the non animal ingredients.
we love the veggies
i should hang out with leeks more often
lentils and diced vegetables
After 90 minutes of braising (and hey, maybe it’s my elevation, but I think I’d let it braise for two hours) I took the pot out of the oven, removed the shanks, and strained the remaining liquid. The solids get tossed out. I let the broth cool for a few minutes before using my favorite de-fatting trick which involves a gallon ziploc bag, a knife, and careful timing. Works every time! I poured the broth, vegetables, and lentils into the pot and brought it all to a boil. Then I added the lamb shanks, covered the pot, and placed it back into the oven for 15 more minutes (which in hindsight, should have been another 30 minutes for my elevation to help the lentils along). At that point, the lid is removed and the pot stays in the oven for another 20 minutes to brown up the shanks.
add the lentils and vegetables to de-fatted broth
put the shanks back into the pot one last time
The heady aromas emanating from the oven were so distracting. I mean come on – beer, onions, garlic, lamb? This dish is worth the wait, that is, if you like falling-off-the-bone tender lamb in a rich, complex, and deeply satisfying broth with earthy lentils and sweet root vegetables. The perfect winter dish and elegant enough for the holidays.
slow is the way to go
Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils
recipe from The Seattle Times
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each) trimmed of excess fat and connective tissue
salt and black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about a cup)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
12 oz. amber ale (I used Singletrack Copper Ale)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (more if necessary)
1 medium leek, white part only, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped fine (about ¾ cup)
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped fine (about ½ cup)
3/4 cup French green (Le Puy) lentils
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Follow the link above for method.