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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Moroccan-Inspired Braised Lamb Shank

I love lamb. I've never met a piece of lamb I didn't want to stuff directly into my mouth. I have friends who find it distasteful, because they think lambs are cute and cuddly. But lambs are not plush toys, there yummy goodness.

I've never made lamb myself. And I was in the mood for Moroccan spices, so I picked up a single shank and headed to the kitchen to experiment.

Google research led me to this recipe from the appropriately named Food & Wine Test Kitchen. I followed it almost exactly, except for a few minor substitutions: pomace oil for the olive oil, quinoa for couscous, and a deep cast-iron skillet in place of an enameled casserole. And even though the original recipe calls for 4 shanks and I was only making 1, I didn't mess with the amount of the spices. I certainly didn't want a bland dish.

Oh yeah, I also didn't chop the garden-fresh herbs. Not for any good reason, I just didn't. You can though.

The recipe looks long and complicated--it really isn't. Don't be overwhelmed by the ingredient list. The recipe is written in order for making the stew, then the quinoa as that is finishing up. I also separated the ingredient list so that it's a little easier to digest.

I like puns.

Moroccan-Inspired Braised Lamb Shank
2 tablespoons pomace oil
1 boneless lamb shank (about 6 oz)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 baby carrots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon harissa or other chile paste
2/3 cup dry red wine
One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth

1/4 cup slivered almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
1 tablespoon pomace oil
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/4 cup raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 325°. In a deep cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season the shank with salt and pepper and brown in the skillet, about 3-4 minutes each side. Transfer to a plate, leaving the fat in the skillet.
2. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and cook, stirring until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and harissa/chile paste and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced to a thick syrup, about 4 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of the chicken stock to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Nestle the lamb shank in the liquid. Cover tightly and braise in the oven for about 2 hours, basting occasionally, until the meat is almost falling apart. Transfer the shank to a platter and cover with foil. Leave the oven on.
4. Spread the almonds in a pie pan in an even layer and toast for about 10 minutes, or until golden.
5. Strain the sauce into a bowl, pressing on the vegetables; skim any fat. Return the sauce to the skillet and boil over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Return the vegetables and lamb to the sauce and keep warm.
6. In a small bowl, mix the mint with the cilantro and almonds and season lightly with salt and pepper.
7. Heat 1 tablespoon of pomace oil in a medium saucepan. Add the shallot and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock, the water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer until all water has been absorbed (about 10 minutes). Remove from the heat and add the raisins. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in half of the herb-almond mixture.
8. Mound the quinoa in the center of a platter. Place the lamb shank next to the quinoa and spoon the sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining herb-almond mixture and serve.

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