Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas | Cooking With Bells On

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas

As much as I can, I try to plan my meals around what looks best at the store or farmer’s market, keeping in mind both cost and seasonality. The thing is, I have pretty high standards when it comes to quality – I like my produce organic, my seafood sustainable, and my meat grass-fed – and the ingredients that meet these standards can often be disappointingly expensive. While I’m okay with paying a premium for quality ingredients that taste better and are far more nourishing (really, see: 1, 2, 3), I don’t necessarily want to just give my wallet outright to Whole Foods.

To hack the cost side of things, I often buy more unconventional cuts of meat. Oxtail and liver are totally fair game for me when I’m shopping for protein, though I get that they might be a tough sell for some (most) of my readers. But lamb shanks? Oh, lamb shanks I know you’ll like.

Rosemary and Thyme Bouquet Garni

The idea for this dinner came about as I was walking through Whole Foods on Tuesday evening. Passing by the butcher case, I spied the lamb shanks – local, grass-fed, probably kissed by unicorns – for six dollars a pound. Alongside the shanks were more conventional cuts like legs and chops, but at double and almost triple the price, respectively. There wasn’t even a decision to make. I asked the butcher to wrap up the shanks, grabbed some vegetables, and headed home.

Dinner came together without much work, though the finished dish might certainly have people thinking otherwise. After the meat was seared and the vegetables sauteed (fifteen minutes at most), the lamb simmered away without fuss for two hours. If I had a slow cooker, maybe I would have left the lamb to cook gently there while carrying on with my day. Before serving, I quickly boiled down the broth to make a sauce, to which I added butter and peas at the very end.

Served over mashed white sweet potatoes, the final meal was something I felt good about serving, meeting all my persnickety high standards. But instead of costing the thirty-five dollars it might have run me at a restaurant, I was able to put each plate on the table for about a quarter of the price. Total win.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas

Serves 4

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas | Cooking With Bells On

As I mentioned above, you could certainly prepare this recipe in a slow cooker. To do so, first sear the shanks and saute the vegetables in a hot pan. Transfer these items to the crock pot, and proceed with the recipe as described. Before leaving the house, set the slow cooker to low. When you return in the evening, you should find the lamb shanks cooked and falling-off-the-bone tender.

I served this recipe over mashed white sweet potatoes, which were amazing. If you can’t find white sweet potatoes, go ahead and mash plain sweet potatoes or even regular potatoes. I imagine this would be quite delicious over risotto, as well.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp neutral oil (I used coconut oil)

4 lamb shanks

1 leek

3 handfuls mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and oyster, though plain button will work just fine)

5 garlic cloves

Rosemary, half a handful of sprigs

Thyme, half a handful of sprigs

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 cups chicken broth

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

Sear the lamb shanks: If you can, bring the lamb shanks out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to start cooking and allow them to come to room temperature. Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil and beginning to smoke. Season the shanks with salt and pepper, and place them in the pot seasoned-side down. Reseason the top side of the shanks in the pot, and sear them in a pan for about five minutes so that they take on some golden brown color. Flip and sear the other side for an additional five minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.

Saute the vegetables: Halve and rinse the leek, then thinly slice white to light green portion. Slice the mushrooms. Smash the garlic cloves and remove the skins. Add all the vegetables at once to the pot (over the oil used from the lamb) and season with salt and pepper. Saute until leeks go a little transparent and garlic turns golden and fragrant. Stir in the Dijon mustard.

Add the herbs and broth: Get together your rosemary and thyme in a parallel pile and tie them into a bunch with some twine. Add them to the pot, along with the chicken broth. The broth should almost cover the shanks – if it does not, add some water or additional stock. Cover, and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for two hours: Stir and rearrange the shanks once or twice to ensure even cooking.

Make the sauce: Remove the shanks from the pot. Pluck out and discard the herb bouquet. Do your best to skim out most of the vegetables (so that you don’t boil them to mush) and set them aside in a small bowl. Bring the broth to a boil and allow the broth to reduce for about 10 minutes, at which point you should have only 1/2 of concentrated broth left in the pot. Whisk in the butter, and add the peas.

Serve: Serve the lamb shanks atop the leek and mushrooms. Spoon over the sauce. Devour.

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Quick, Creamy Mushrooms with Frisée

It’s fair to say that the food I make is heavily influenced by the weather. Take this past Saturday, for example. On Saturday the fog in New York was thick enough to erase the view from my apartment, rendering the landscape milky white. I suppose I prefer to see the city obfuscated by a white of hazy, rather than snowy, precipitation, but the damp chill in the air makes me yearn for a comforting meal all the same.

With the intention of creating a bit of comfort in mind I headed into the kitchen early Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t really planned on being at the stove that day, at least not after breakfast, so when I set my mind on cooking a little lunch I had to scavenge for ingredients leftover from meals past. Searching the fridge, I found wild mushrooms, bought the prior day before that evening’s plans changed, as well as some frisee that never made it into salad and a single remaining vidalia onion. I also happened upon a half bottle of local organic cream, the surplus of a failed pastry attempt earlier that week. Between those finds and the garlic and herbs that are constant fixtures in my pantry, I was set to create something amazing.

Photo Mar 29, 1 53 00 PM

When you have great ingredients to work with, beautiful meals come together with little effort. As much as I try to plan meals that are inventive most of the time, my best efforts are always those that come about haphazardly, like this one. Creating meals out of necessity with limited supplies is what brings out my creativity, forcing me to think outside the box of what I know has worked in the past to create something new out of the ingredients I have now.

This meal is the product of such creativity. The mushrooms are cooked down to a gentle earthiness with the onion, garlic, and rosemary. They are joined by the frisée, which provides a bright vegetal counterpoint to the mushrooms’ fleshy tenderness. Finished with cream, the dish has a milky resemblance of the fog outside. Rather than being dreary and cold, though, each bowl has a rich warmth, and brings the soothing comfort needed to brighten a gloomy day.

Quick, Creamy Mushrooms with Frisée

Serves two as a main dish, or four as a side

Photo Mar 30, 11 11 52 PM

For crunch, I sprinkled toasted almonds over the finished dish. The traditional way to toast nuts would be to heat them in a low-temperature oven or in a pan over moderate heat until they smell fragrant but are not yet burnt. The much easier way is to zap them in the microwave for a minute, stirring halfway through. Don’t tell a real chef I said to do this – it’s super uncool – but it totally works.

I did this dish a complete injustice by not eating it with a hunk of toasty bread. Bread isn’t really something I have around my house much, but if you have some on hand you’re going to want to use it as a spongy mop for all the delicious cream in the bottom of the bowl.

Ingredients:
2 cups mushrooms, preferably a mix of wild varieties
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 vidalia onion, sliced in half vertically and then thinly sliced horizontally into half-moons (you could alternatively half an ordinary onion, a few scallions, or even a leek)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 tbsp butter
1 head endive frisee – strip enough leaves to equal about half the volume of mushrooms (save the remainder for salad another day)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

Sautee the mushrooms: Place a saucepan or pot over medium-high heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms. Season aggressively with salt and pepper – mushrooms require a lot of seasoning, and the cream added later will somewhat mute the dish, so you might need to compensate with more salt than you would normally use. Allow the mushrooms to cook for five minutes or so, in which time they will give off a lot of water and begin to collapse.

Add the aromatics: After the mushrooms have wilted a bit, add the onion, garlic, and rosemary. Cook for another minute or two until they become fragrant and the garlic turns lightly golden. Add the butter.

Stir in the frisée and cream: Add the frisée and cream, and bring to a simmer. You want to wilt the frisée a little bit so it loses most of its crunch. After two or three minutes the cream will have reduced. Stir to ensure that the cream is thoroughly mixed with the butter and olive oil.

Serve: Serve warm, garnishing with the toasted almonds.