Friday, April 18, 2008

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline...~ Frank Zappa

You would think that a lamb shank would be an inexpensive cut of meat. After all, it is part of the front leg and pretty well used during the lifetime of the lamb. But not in these parts. Not only were the lamb shanks expensive, they were difficult to find. Who knew?? Three days and $40+ later, I was ready to make the dish I saw in the Williams-Sonoma catalog I received sometime last week.

My initial problem was that the Williams-Sonoma recipe calls for a jar of their Irish Stout Braising Base, which I don't have and didn't really want to order. So, once again I went back to internet to try to find the ingredients to make my own braising base. I found several recipes, but did not settle on just a single one. Instead, I combined what I thought would be the best of all the recipes. Most of the recipes I found called for four lamb shanks, but I only used two. This was the result.

Stout-Braised Lamb Shanks
by Terri Powers for Terri's Table

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lamb shanks
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 - 12 oz bottle of stout (I used Guinness)
1-1/2 cups beef broth
2 - 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Tie the fresh herbs securely in a bunch with kitchen twine for easy removal from the pot later. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, wide pot. Brown the lamb shanks on all sides until well browned. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the shanks and set them aside.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of grease from the pot and add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots start to caramelize, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, stirring and cooking until hot thoroughly mixed with the vegetable.

Return the shanks to the pot and pour in the stout and beef broth. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Add the bundle of fresh herbs and the bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lamb is very tender and nearly falling off the bone, about 2 to 3 hours. Stir occasionally as it cooks and add more beef broth if needed to keep the sauce from becoming too thick.

When ready to serve, remove the shanks from the sauce to a serving platter. Skim the excess grease from the top of the sauce. Pour the sauce into a bowl or gravy boat.

The only thing I would do differently is to blend the vegetables in the sauce with a food processor or blender. I served the lamb shanks with roasted root vegetables: Beets, sweet potatoes and yukon gold potatoes. I cut the vegetables in larger bite-sized pieces and put them in a bowl, added a little olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and mixed well to coat. Bake at 400ºF on a baking pan for 45 minutes to one hour.

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