Monday, January 23, 2006


my birthday gift to laurie was really a birthday gift to myself. i can't remember the last time i made anything more complicated than a pot of soup. it's been weeks, and i miss cooking. the birthday dinner was my opportunity to get in front of the stove again and to have friends over and entertain.

"food and wine" magazine has been arriving at my house and i figured the only thing separating the magazine from being a coaster, was using some of the recipes. i chose braised lamb shanks with cilantro pesto. braising is a slow-cooking technique that basically involves searing the meat, and then letting it cook in liquid at a low temperature for a long time. when you eat meat that falls off the bone, it has likely been braised.

having come to my culinary pubescence during my vegetarian years, i don't have that much experience cooking meat. i was suprised to find that i did not enjoy handling the bloody, raw stuff. the outcome was good, but in truth, i do not think i will be cooking giant hunks of lamb for quite some time.

the recipe is for six shanks but i made only four, while changing none of the other proportions. also, we drank it with scotch on the rocks: good stuff my buddy chris bought for me for my birthday in edinburgh last summer.

braised lamb shanks with roasted broccoli and squash

1/4 plus 3 tbsp e.v.o.o.
6 med. lamb shanks, about 6 pounds
salt and fresh pepper
2 cups dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock or low sodium broth
2 med onions, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced into moons
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, thinkly sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 large canned italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 pounds small delicata squash (i used dumpling squash i think)--scrubbed, halved, seeded and cut into slices
1 2 lb head of broccoli cut into florets
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained

preheat oven to 325 degrees
heat tbsp olive oil in skillet. season lamb shanks with salt and pepper all over.
add three of shanks and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, 10 minutes.
transfer to a large roasting pan or stew pot.
repeat with another tbsp olive oil and remaining shanks.
pour off skillet oil
add wine and boil for 1 minute, scraping up browned bits
pour wine into roasting pan with lamb shanks
add stock/celery/carrot/thyme/coarsely chopped onions/bay leaves
bring to boil over high heat
cover with foil and place in oven.
braise for 2.5 hours, until meat is very tender
remove foil, let cool slightly

make sofrito:
in medium skillet heat 2 tbsp olive oil
add garlic, finely chopped oinion, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds and cook over moderate heat until reduce to 2/3 cup
season with salt and pepper

increase oven temp to 400 degrees
on each of two rimmed baking sheets toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, and do same thing with broccoli
roast squash for 45 minutes, broccoli for 25 minutes
meanwhile tranfer lamb shanks to a work surface, strain braising liquid and skim off fat
add chickpeas/tomato sofrito/lamb shanks to braising liquid, cover and simmer for 8 minutes over low heat

cook couscous according to package (i made it with the large israeli couscous which is less absorbent and maybe therefore, not as good). add butter and salt (i used olive oil for my lactose intolerant laurie)

put couscous/lamb/roasted veggies in a bowl and drizzle cilantro pesto over the top (see below)

cilantro pesto
1 cup cilantro leaves, cleaned
1 cup flat leaf parsley, cleaned
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 knob ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil

place all ingredients in blender

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