Thursday, February 21, 2013

Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary and Espelette

This is one of these recipes that are perfect every season. In winter, these lamb shanks love a hearty creamy rich polenta and roasted carrots. In spring, it likes to sit atop a garden pea and green asparagus risotto. In summer, it goes oh so well with a tossed summer salad, crusty bread, and a red pepper aioli. And in autumn, how about a roasted pumpkin mash and sauteed mushrooms?

Culinary Trivia: Espelette
Espelette is a chilli pepper from the Basque region in the South-West of France. Named after the town of Espelette in the Pays Basque, this fragrant and mild red pepper is traditionally used in making Bayonne ham. The peppers are harvested in summer, and hung to dry on strings. In Markets & Platters, a fresh seafood gourmet shop in Dubai, I saw these peppers dried and strung together, hanging just above the purple artichokes. "Can I buy individual peppers?" I asked, aware that an entire string would be just a little too ambitious. Sold only per string, I generously got a pepper anyway. Chopped into rings, part of it went into the braising liquid. The rest I powdered.

aromatic garnish with espelette
Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary and Espelette
recipe for 4

4 lamb shanks
1-2 twigs fresh rosemary
1/2 Espelette pepper, chopped*
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 small bay leaf
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt/pepper to taste
1 cup red wine
1 cup stock (preferably veal but chicken or beef will do)

  • preheat the oven to 180C
  • Season the lamb shanks all over with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in an ovenproof casserole, and brown the shanks on all sides. Take out. 
  • Add all aromatics (onion, garlic, carrot, etc) to the pan. Stir around a little and let caramelise slightly for 2-3 minutes. Add the red wine and scrape off all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine come to a boil, and reduce to half. 
  • Add a cup of stock, bring to a boil and arrange the lamb shanks with the bone facing up. They will be standing in a shallow base of stock, which is perfect.
  • Close the lid and place the casserole in the preheated oven. Bake for about 2 hours. By that time, the meat will have withdrawn from the bone and be tender.
  • Let cool slightly, then strain the liquid. Discard all aromatics. Cool the strained liquid in the fridge: I find it a lot easier to degrease the sauce this way, by simply scraping off the solidified fat. You can degrease the "kitchen professional" way: spoon by spoon scoop out the fat from the liquid's surface.
  • Once you're happy with the sauce in terms of fat, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. My guess is you'll be happy with the sauce as is. Maybe add just a little salt, a sprinkling of fresh pepper, or in this case: add some more powdered espelette. If you find the sauce too hearty, add a little honey or brown (raw cane) sugar.

*if you have no whole espelette, use powdered (1 tsp or to taste). Of course, if you have no espelette at all, replace with a mild dried chilli.

lamb shanks ready to go into the oven
tender, juicy meat falling off the bone

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic pics - making me feel hungry (which given how much I ate last night is an achievement). A reminder to cook lamb shanks soon.