Friday, May 22, 2009

Morocco-Inspired Braised Lamb Shanks

I braised lamb shanks using the wonderful smelling Moroccan spice mix Mary gave me from her recent trip. (see my May 7 blog entry) Not sure how the spice mix should be used in an authentic Moroccan dish, but we loved this whole meal.

Tom made a delicious side dish of rice with garlic, currants and peas. And we had a simple salad with fresh green and toasted pine nuts.

I like to braise --- it's just fancy crockpot cooking in the oven --- because you can use tougher, more flavorful, often less expensive, cuts of meat and get great results. And braised dishes aren't picky. It doesn't matter exactly what time they come out of the oven. This works well for our schedules.
Collected my ingredients: 2 Lamb shanks, 2 onions, the Moroccan spice mix Mary gave me, a knob of fresh ginger, some honey for sweetness, red pepper flakes for some heat, two bay leafs for earthiness, and stock for braising. Later I decided to add some balsalmic vinegar for depth, too.
It is important to sear the lamb shanks on high heat. It takes time but it is worth it. This pan I use specifically for browning ---never a non-stick pan --put some olive oil in the hot pan until it starts to swirl. Pepper all sides of your meat, then add it to the pan and don't move it until it is seared on the first side, then carefully brown all sides and ends to create good flavor. Watch out --use long tongs -- turn on your fan --
Place the seared lamb shanks in a shallow roasting pan, cut your onions in to big chunks and nestle them around the meat. Grate the fresh ginger all over and add the bay leaf, too. Sprinkle salt over the top, mostly on the meat.

On medium high, in the remaining oil/fat from the searing the lamb, add 2 or 3 T. of Morocco spice mix. Quickly mix together to toast the spices, so they don't taste raw. Don't let it burn.
Add the stock --about 2 cups ---a big glug of honey, red pepper flakes to taste, and about 2 T. of balsalmic vinegar. Bring to a boil and mix all of the ingredients together well.
Pour the liquid into the baking casserole. The meat should be covered about 3/4 or more. Add more stock or red wine if you need more liquid.
Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in a 325 degree oven for 2 or 3 hours. Turn the shanks over after the first hour, to be sure they are in contact with the braising liquid.
The result is a very rich sauce and very tender meat. The onions soak up all the flavor and become intense. After you remove the meat and the onions, you could reduce the broth even more and serve it as a sauce. But, I decided to save mine as is. I am going to buy two more lamb shanks, brown them, then braise them in the reserved liquid. I'll just add more stock if I need it for coverage. I'll add onions again, or maybe carrots, too.

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