With all this cloudy, overcast weather as of late – providing a wintry look, if not wintry temperatures – I’ve been in the mood for something braised. A nice chunk of meat, slowly cooked in a pool of simmering liquid until it is just falling off the bone… mmmm, that’s good eating!
Tawn doesn’t eat a lot of meat, so I had to provide plenty of advance notice about our dinner. Thankfully, he was willing to try so long as I also made mashed potatoes.
The recipe was a fairly simple one, adapted from the Junior League of San Francisco’s cookbook. Lamb shanks, aromatics, potatoes, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, and red wine. I was supposed to include parsnips and pearl onions, neither of which I could find at the market.
I started by seasoning the shanks, dredging them in flour, then browning them in an oven-proof pot. This is supposed to be a Dutch oven ideally, but I haven’t one of those. Maybe Santa will bring me one…
After browning, you remove the shanks and cook the aromatics (carrots, celery, onions and in my case, Japanese spring onions and garlic) until they are lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute or so, then add the chopped tomatoes and red wine. Stir well and then add the potatoes.
Partially cover it and then put it into a medium-low oven for three hours or more, turning the shanks occasionally, until the meat is super-tender and loose from the bone. From that point, cook about one more hour so that the connective tissue is fully dissolved.
From there, remove and reserve part of the sauce, and allow the remainder of the ingredients to cool. They can be refrigerated overnight to allow the flavors to develop further. When you are ready to eat, reheat the food in the oven for about an hour or until warmed through.
On the stove, you’ll strain and reduce the liquid until it has made a nice sauce. I added some additional wine and a little beef stock to round out the flavor. I probably should have added the stock to the original dish, but those are lessons learned for next time. Below: the first time I’ve used all four burners!
Finally, after all that work you will have your finished product. Serve it with whatever other dishes you like. In my case, buttermilk horseradish mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus with lemon-olive oil dressing.
The meat turned out delicious and flavorful, although I hadn’t cooked it quite as long as I mentioned above so some of the connective tissues were still connecting. Not a problem, just a little more work with the fork and knife. Still, a very nice attempt at a wintry dinner.
The next day, though, skies were clear and summery again!