Monday, March 15, 2010

Maiden Voyage

Tasty, richly flavorful and inexpensive, lamb shanks deliver a lot of punch for the money. They do take a long time to cook, however, and back in my working days, I usually only had them in restaurants where someone else was taking the time to make them tender and delicious.

Now that I'm retired, I have made them several times - time is no longer the scarce commodity. And, now that I have my wonderful new Dutch oven, I can even brown the shanks and braise them in the same pot - no loss of flavor and only one pot to clean up!

Here's the maiden voyage of my cast iron wonder - lamb shanks with pinto beans. The meat was so tender as to make chewing virtually unnecessary and the beans had made very good friends with the other veggies I added to the pot. And the goozle! OMG, the goozle! My kingdom for some good bread to sop up this goozle!

I think you can tell I like my new Dutch oven. Here's the recipe for this little taste of heaven, should you already have a Dutch oven. You could do this in a crock pot, too, but be sure to transfer all the browned stuff from the browning pan into the crock pot or you'll miss all kinds of flavor.

Brown Braised Lamb Shanks with Pinto Beans. Serves four hearty eaters.

4 large shallots, halved through the stem end
6 small boiling onions, halved through the stem end
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 lamb shanks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
2 big pinches of Herbes de Provence
1 big pinch lavender
1 quart beef stock or a mixture of beef stock and a stout red wine
1/2 lb. dried pinto beans (I had these on hand but any dried beans would do) 1/4 lb would be plenty if you don't want leftovers.
Olive oil sufficient for browning the shanks

In the morning, wash and cover with 2" of water the beans. Leave them to soak for at least two hours.

After lunch, slowly bring the Dutch oven up to temperature and brown the lamb shanks in olive oil in the bottom of the Dutch oven, giving them a good sear to caramelize the juices and give the shanks an appealing shade of brown. Remove the shanks to a plate. Add the onions and shallots, cut side down, and brown them in the same pot. Sprinkle the garlic slices over the other alliums and cook for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, topping them with the shanks, pouring over any accumulated juices from the plate and bringing to a boil before covering and placing in a slow (250-300 degree) oven. No need to preheat the oven.

The shanks will cook for about four hours or so. If you're a fussy cook like me, you might want to turn the shanks once or twice during the cooking, but it's not essential.

We found this to be plenty for two meals for us, plus leftover beans for the freezer and to make soup with. If you don't want leftovers, reduce the amount of beans by half or more, and reduce the amount of broth by a like amount, as well.

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Blogger Louis la Vache said...


uh - which 'stout red wine' did you use?
Ch√Ęteau Gallo?

Monday, March 15, 2010  
Blogger Greg said...

That Dutch Oven did not spend much time on the self. The food looks yummy and comforting.

Monday, March 15, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Wow, you cooked the beans in the pot with the meat? That is daring. I'm glad it came out just right!

We are braising a lamb shank, Irish-stew-style, for St. Pat's Day.

Monday, March 15, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Louis, I use the rest of whatever I have on hand. I'm not much of a wine connoisseur, much to my older brother's chagrin - he's the wine snob in our family.

Greg, I'm using it again for our St. Patrick's Day corned beef, too!

Cookiecrumb, I didn't realize it was daring - just made sense to combine two long-cooking items. But I was careful not to add tomatoes this time! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

Yum, but you're right, for a person who works outside the home, this is a weekend thing for sure. But my, it does make the house smell good on a Saturday or Sunday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010  

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