Last night, I prepared one of my favorite restaurant dishes – braised lamb shanks. They turned out meltingly tender, and were perfectly complemented by a simple root vegetable puree. While shanks aren’t the most “sophisticated” cut of lamb, under the conditions of braising in the oven for two and a half hours, they become something absolutely divine. And, I love any excuse to use my Dutch oven. Cooking with it makes me feel like Julia Child.
First, start by dicing some strips of bacon. While your hands are handling meat, you can also go ahead and pat the shanks dry with a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper.
Next, chop some carrots, celery, onion, and a leek.
To get the cooking started, render the bacon and then remove the pieces, leaving behind the grease.
Now, you’re ready to brown the shanks.
Remove the shanks after they’re browned on all sides, and saute the vegetables with some fresh garlic. Stir in a bit of tomato paste for richness and body…
…making sure to coat all of the vegetables.
Now, pour yourself a nice glass of wine. And…add it to the pot. This will need to reduce before you add the beef stock and shanks.
Once you’ve reduced the wine and added the stock, the browned meat gets nestled into the sauce and goes into the oven to braise for two and a half hours.
At this point, set your oven timer (I could’ve said “Set it…and, forget it!” like those infamous RonCo. infomercials, circa 1990s), chop your root vegetables for the puree, and then, if you REALLY want to replicate my process, you can go mop your floors and vacuum the carpet. Once you get within a half hour of the shanks being finished, start cooking your vegetables. After about 20 minutes, process until smooth in a food processor with some butter, half & half or cream, and salt and pepper.
When the oven timer goes off, try not to trample your pets, husband, wife, kids, etc. Also, these may make you forget your manners and lead you to devouring them, Flintstone-style. One of the perks of making a restaurant-style meal at home is that you’re able to do exactly that, without the gawking of surrounding diners.
Braised Lamb Shanks & Root Vegetable Puree
(tweaked from The Kitchn)
For the lamb shanks
3 slices bacon, diced
2 lamb shanks
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 leek, rinsed thoroughly and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups beef stock
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon over high heat until crisp and all the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon and set aside for another use. Meanwhile, pat the shanks dry and season with salt and pepper. Add the shanks to the pan (one at a time if necessary) and brown well on all sides. Remove the shanks and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium. Add the celery, carrots, onion, and leeks and sauté until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Stir in the tomato paste until the vegetables are well coated.
Pour in the red wine, increase heat to high, and reduce until almost cooked out. Add the beef stock, demi-glace, thyme, and bay leaves. Nestle the shanks into the braising liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven. Cook the lamb for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, rotating the meat once during cooking time, until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.
Remove the shanks from the Dutch oven. Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve, discarding cooked vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve the shanks atop root vegetable puree and drizzle with sauce. (This would also be good served over mashed potatoes, creamy polenta, or pappardelle.)
For the root vegetable puree
2 carrots, peeled and medium diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and medium diced
2 parsnips, peeled and medium diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup half & half, warmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan, cover the carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender and easy to pierce with a knife, about 20 minutes.
Place root vegetables in a food processor fitted with blade. Add butter, warm cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Process until the vegetables are smooth, creamy puree. Return to the saucepan and keep warm on lowest heat until ready to serve.