I was talking to my mom the other day and she said she was tired of her meat options for dinner and I thought, “Me too!” I serve the same things throughout the month: roast chicken, steaks, slow-roasted pork, some sort of ground meat product (chicken or pork sausage, beef, etc…), pot roast or short ribs, and maybe some fish. I like meat a lot, but I am not sure I am the best at cooking it. Sigh.
I decided if I am going to try something new, I better find a fool-proof recipe. For me, recipes that are cooked slowly are generally pretty safe. It’s those high-heat, temperature-has-to-be-perfect-or-it’s-dry meats that are tricky. (See: steak, chicken breasts, pork chops, shrimp, scallops, and much more). I decided to cook a lamb roast from Alice Water’s Book, The Art of Simple Food, which is like the slow food bible. This book is wonderful, if you haven’t heard. She encourages buying local, whole foods and then describes how to cook them with relatively easy, yet fantastic recipes. Nothing fancy, just simple, wholesome, and delicious food.
See? How good does that look?
Anyway, so I went to the store in search of a lamb shoulder roast, which only brought strange looks from the butcher as they don’t carry that cut. I walked out with 4 lamb blade chops, which I was assured could be braised. (I am glad the butchers help me sometimes, because, I swear, half the time I have no idea what I am supposed to do when it comes to meat.)
I think the key to braising consists of a few things. 1. Salt and pepper before (up to a day before) 2. Browning- make sure the meat gets a nice brown sear. 3. Delicious braising liquid, without it, your meat will lose flavor.
This recipe had me cook the lamb with onions, carrots, white wine, chicken stock, hot dried chilies and some herbs. It smelled wonderful before I even put it in the oven.
And, then when it came out… I blended the sauce, served it over polenta, and topped with gremolata (which every time I see on a menu, I have to ask for a definition. Maybe now that I have made it, I won’t have to ask!).
The result was so good. I think I might have to add this to our monthly rotation. The lamb wasn’t that expensive ($5.99 a pound) and it made enough for 5+ meals. If you are looking for something new to make, try this!
Adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food
4 bone in lamb shank cuts (I used lamb blade, but other arm cuts will work)
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups of chopped onion
2 carrots, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 small dried chili pepper
5 black peppercorns
3/4 cup of white wine
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cups of chicken broth
3 Tbsp of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
If you have time, salt and pepper the shanks the day before. If not, do it as much ahead of time as possible.
Preheat the oven to 325. Heat a oven-proof, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Warm the oil and add the shanks, browning them well on all sides. Remove the shanks from the pan and pour out most of the oil. Add in the onion, carrots, garlic, chili pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Then, turn up the heat to high and add the white wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. After a minute, add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and allow to cook down by half. Add the shanks back to the pan along with the 2 cups of chicken broth. Cover and place in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
While the lamb is cooking, make the gremolata. Combine the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic cloves. Set aside.
When the lamb falls off the bone, remove from oven. Take shanks out of pan and throw away the bones. Place the sauce in a food processor and pulse to create a rough puree. Pour over the lamb meat. Top with a tablespoon of gremolata.
I served this on top of polenta, but it would do just as well on a bed of mashed potatoes, braised greens, or in a bowl with a nice piece of bread to sop up the juices.
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