Lamb Shanks, Lentils and Red Wine

by Giff on March 28, 2016

lamb-shank-lentils-plated

1 lb black lentils (french/puy lentils can be used instead)
5 lamb shanks
1.5 vidalia/sweet onions, finely diced (or red onions)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 carrots, halved across the length
1 stalk of celery, halved across the length
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp pork lard (optional)
bottle of red wine (such as a cotes du rhone)
~2 cups of water
1.5 tbsp minced rosemary
3 bay leaves
handful of parsley, tied together with kitchen string
salt
pepper
big pinch of ground nutmeg
big pinch of ground clove
big pinch of ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250F.

Sear the lamb shanks, 2 or 3 at a time so that you do not crowd them, on medium heat in a large dutch oven or pot. Set aside.

Turn off the heat for a few minutes to let the pot cool. Turn on the heat again to medium-low and add the olive oil, then the onions. Cook the onions for 5-10 minutes until they start to turn translucent, stirring to make sure they do not stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic and cook for a couple minutes.

Because I wanted to make sure that the lamb did not dry out, I also added some pork lard, which I render myself when braising pork shoulder, but alternatively you could just cook the dish with a few pieces of bacon (discard towards the end of cooking) which would add a nice smokiness.

Add the lentils and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Then stir in the bottle of red wine (personally I like using a reasonably priced but drinkable bottle of wine from the south of France for this purpose).

Stir in a half-teaspoon of salt and add the carrots, celery, bay leaf, parsley and rosemary. Add the shanks back in and immerse them as best you can.

Cover and cook in the oven for 1.5 hours at 250F, or if you are not using a pot that can go in the oven, on the stove-top on very low heat.

Taste for salt and add more as needed, along with a few pinches of ground black pepper and the cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Stir in 2 or 3 cups of water. Cover again and cook for another hour or so.

lamb-shank-lentils-stewing

All of the above can be done the night before, reducing the amount of time needed before the meal. Just let the pot cool and then put the entire thing in the fridge overnight.

At this point, I remove the meat from the lamb shank bones, trimming them of excess fat and cartilage but keeping the meat in large pieces. However, add the bones back to the pot, discarding right before serving. I discard the carrot and celery at this point, and add more salt and pepper (and possibly some rosemary, either minced or in stalks) to taste.

If you do split the cooking process overnight, just warm the pot up again over a low flame and then return to a 250F oven, uncovered, for a final hour of cooking.

To serve, make sure that the carrot, celery, bay leaf, parsley, and rosemary stalks (if any) are all discarded. Either plate directly or ladle into a serving bowl.

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Smoked Beef Braise

by Giff on October 4, 2015

smoked-braise-pot

Yesterday for a dinner party I decided to add a new flavor to a beef braise: smoke. The results were quite a hit when combined with the braising sauce.

The cut was a 4 pound boneless chuck. I gave it a dry rub of:

3/4 tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seed
1 tbsp ground paprika
1/5 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano

The peppercorns and coriander seed were ground in a mortar and then mixed with the other components before applying the dry rub all over the beef.

dry-rub-mortar

To smoke the meat, I used a Weber kettle grill and smoked the meat for about an hour. It’s important to smoke *before* you braise, not after. I used about a half-chimney of royal oak wood charcoal (I prefer that to briquettes), and about 4 chunks of cherry wood, which had been soaked in water for over an hour ahead of time. Once the coals were quite hot, I spread them on one half of the grill bottom, and put a pan filled with some water on the other side. Make sure you place the meat above the pan, and not directly above the coals (i.e. you want indirect heat). In this case, I ended up closing both the bottom and top vents, letting some air in only periodically. I made sure the temperature didn’t rise above 250F/300F because my goal was to get some smoke flavor, not dry out the meat.

smoked-braise-smoking

smoked-braise-smoke

The Braise
2 onions (spanish or vidalia), chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
bouquet garni of parsley and bay leaf (tied with white kitchen string)
2 cups of a dry white wine
beef broth or water

After an hour of smoking, I brought the meat back inside. I seared both sides on high heat in the dutch oven for about a minute a side, removed the beef to the side, and deglazed the bottom with a little bit of water. One of the onions, chopped, went on the bottom of the pan, and the beef was placed on top. Then I spread the remaining onion, carrot and garlic around and wedged the bouquet garni in the side. Two cups of white wine were added, and enough beef broth to bring the liquid to just over a third of the way up the meat. I had made a beef broth earlier in the day with beef shank, but you can just use water or all wine if you want.

The oven had been pre-heated to 295F and the dutch oven, covered, went in for 5 hours. I let everything rest while guests arrived and we started the meal, and as we got closer to this course, took the meat out of the pot and popped it into the 295F oven in a baking dish to stay warm. The liquid fat at the top of the braising liquid was skimmed off, the bouquet garni removed, and then I used an immersion blender to puree all the vegetables into a sauce.

The last step was probably the most important. Even with just an hour of smoke, the meat had absorbed a lot of the smoke flavor, and on its own was a bit more “BBQ” than I was going for (albeit delicious). But paired with the sauce of the braising liquid, the combination balanced out perfectly into a delicious mix. Suffice it to say that there were no leftovers. Unfortunately, I was moving a bit too fast in the later part of this process to take pictures, but wanted to record this one as a success.

We paired this with some broccoli rabe that had been parboiled and then sauteed with a bit of garlic, lemon juice and hot pepper flakes. Oh, and a 2004 Barolo that we’ve been saving in our basement for years.

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Lime and Manchego Corn Salad

August 22, 2015

This summer my friend Veronica made a delicious corn salad one evening for a family bbq, and I’ve been riffing off of it ever since. 5 or 6 ears of corn, cooked and kernels removed juice of 4 or 5 limes large handful of cherry peppers, halved half of a small red onion, finely diced […]

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Lime and Jalapeno Brined Pork Chops

January 26, 2015

I’ll have to add some photographs later, but I wanted to record this experiment for future use. Brine (for two pork chops) 2 limes 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 red (or green) jalapeno pepper, very thinly sliced handful of cilantro, chopped 1.5 tsp salt 1 tsp sugar red vinegar olive oil Quarter the limes and […]

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Shiitake and Manchego Risotto

January 7, 2015

I think there are three key things to a good risotto. First, making a decent broth. Second, constant stirring. Third, not overcooking it. I’ll often have broth in the freezer, made with the remains of a roast chicken, but in this case, we were without, so earlier in the day I made a turkey-based broth. […]

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Peasant Stew (a simple cassoulet)

September 29, 2014

Fall brings braising back into my kitchen, and my favorite thing to braise is pork shoulder. Not only does it make a spectacular meal in it’s own right, but it gives you the perfect material for follow-on dishes, whether chili or tacos or in last week’s case, a cassoulet-inspired peasant stew. There are a myriad […]

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Mussels in Ginger Coconut Milk Broth

January 20, 2014

(serves 2 people) 1 lb mussels 1 small onion, thinly sliced then roughly chopped 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 1 TSP tomato paste 1 can of coconut milk 1 fresh hot pepper (or dried hot chili pepper flakes) 1/2 cup of dry vermouth or white […]

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Littleneck Clam and Watercress Soup

November 3, 2013

This is a riff off of my grandmother’s oyster stew recipe, which I’ve adapted for clams and lightened up a bit. Lisl loved it. Great with a crisp white wine. Ingredients 24 littleneck clams 1 onion, diced 3 stalks of celery, diced 1 clove of garlic, minced watercress, loosely chopped 2 tb of butter 1 […]

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Summer Three Bean Salad

July 12, 2013

When picnic season rolls around, this is always my most requested dish. I’ve had a number of requests to update the recipe here, so with no further ado: The Basics: 1 can kidney beans, rinsed (1) 1 can chickpeas, rinsed 1 can black beans, rinsed 1 green pepper, chopped 1 red pepper, chopped half a […]

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Chipotle Pork Shoulder Braise

March 3, 2013
Thumbnail image for Chipotle Pork Shoulder Braise

Chipotle Pork Shoulder Braise 1 3-4 lb pork shoulder, bone-in 1 tbsp mexican oregano 2 chipotle peppers, in adobo sauce 2 ancho chiles, seeds removed 1 tin of fire roasted tomatoes 1 beer 1 large onion, chopped 5 cloves of garlic, minced 1.5 tbsp kosher salt 1 tbsp coriander seed 1/2 tsp cumin seed 10 […]

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