Luckily, I am being forced back into blogging reality because it is the fifteenth of the month, so I have to post my daring cook’s challenge- braising! I have spoken often about my obsession with braising (which is basically slow cooking in a bit of liquid). It does take a while for the heat to dissolve the proteins of meat, but you are left with succulent, fall of the bone perfection that is worth the wait. Plus, it only requires work up front, so you can clean your whole kitchen before eating.
I also wanted to mention that I didn’t get to post everything I wanted to for Frozen February- so I will be continuing to throw in a few freezable meals from time to time. Maybe themed months are just too much pressure for me.
BRAISED LAMB SHANKS WITH GARLIC AND ROSEMARY
4 onions, thickly sliced
4 shallots, thickly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into thick slices
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 generous tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
4 lamb shanks, about 3/4 to 1 pound each
salt, freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock (half a carton- use the other half in kale)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 bay leaves (optional)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Heat a dutch oven large enough to accommodate lamb shanks over a medium-low flame. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, onions, shallots and carrots. Sauté vegetable mixture until onions and shallots are very tender and starting to caramelize, stirring frequently to avoid burning, 20 minutes or more. If onions start to brown too quickly, reduce heat.
Meanwhile, pat shanks dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Heat a large skillet over a high flame. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown shanks thoroughly on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. If cooking more than 2 shanks, brown them in batches, adding more oil, if needed. Transfer browned shanks to a plate and add wine to the skillet. Cook until just heated through, scraping up browned bits in the bottom of the pan.
Add rosemary and garlic to the dutch oven with the onion/shallot mixture and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add chicken broth, lemon zest and juice and bay leaves. Add the red wine from the skillet and stir to combine. Arrange lamb shanks on top of the onion/shallot mixture; the liquid in the dutch oven should come about halfway up the sides of the shanks. If not, add a little water.
Cover with lid and place in oven. Braise shanks for about 2-1/2 hours or more, until meat is very tender. Turn the shanks once or twice during the braising, adding a little water to the dutch oven if the liquid is evaporating too much.
Remove from oven and serve over polenta or mashed potatoes.
SWEET POTATO POLENTA
1 sweet potato
1 box instant polenta
Poke the sweet potato with a fork in a few places, then wrap it in foil and throw it in the oven with the lamb. Let it cook for about an hour, or until it feels soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, cook polenta according to box directions. Cut the potato in half, scoop out insides, then mash with a fork. Add the sweet potato to the polenta and season to taste.
RAINBOW CHARD AND PURPLE KALE
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch rainbow chard
1 bunch purple kale
2 cups chicken stock
Wash the greens and let dry. Roughly chop greens into 1 inch pieces. Heat oil in a large pan and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic softens, about 5 minutes. Add the greens (you may have to do this in batches until it begins to wilt so that you can fit it) and about 1 cup of the stock. Stir until the greens wilt, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Let cook for about 40 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes or so. Add more stock when the greens become dry- watch them closely to make sure they don’t burn. When they taste cooked, remove from heat and season with salt.