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BRAISED LAMB SHANKS WITH WINTER SQUASH AND RED CHARD


Autumn has officially arrived, and after a summer of cool, light cooking, itís time for some homey, hearty meals. Braised meats, with their rich flavors, tender texture and intense, reduced sauces, are definitely homey, but you may never have tried to make them at home. They sound as if they might be complicated to prepare—like something best left to a restaurant chef—and what exactly is braising, anyway?

Relax. Braising is easy—there are only two steps: The meat is browned first, then covered and simmered in seasoned liquid. According to Cory Schreiber, the chef at Portlandís super-popular Wildwood Restaurant & Bar, braising is a great way to cook lamb shanks. In the recipe here, he does something slightly unusual: He simmers the shanks uncovered in the oven. That way, he says, "the dry heat caramelizes the top of the meat—giving it a bit of a crust—which adds nice texture and color." The lamb is accompanied by a roasted squash purée and wilted Swiss chard.

With this recipe in hand, you can actually have your next homey meal at home. Add a salad and crusty bread, and youíve got your first dinner party of the season.

Use a pot thatís at least 12 inches across.

4 3/4- to 1-pound lamb shanks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped parsnips
4 fresh large thyme sprigs
2 whole garlic heads, unpeeled, cut horizontally in half
1 cup dry red wine
5 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 large orange, peel and pith cut away, orange quartered
2 whole cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed

1 1 3/4-pound butternut squash, quartered lengthwise, seeded
1/2teaspoon (scant) ground nutmeg

1 fresh medium fennel bulb, trimmed, sliced (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons grated orange peel

2 bunches red Swiss chard
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. Sprinkle lamb on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Add lamb; cook until brown, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer to plate. Add 1 tablespoon butter to drippings in pot. Add onion, carrots, parsnips, thyme and garlic. Sauté until vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add wine; boil until reduced almost to glaze, about 4 minutes. Return lamb to pot, arranging in single layer. Add stock, orange, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds; bring to boil. Place pot in oven. Braise lamb uncovered until tender, turning and basting often, about 2 hours 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, rub cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange squash, skin side down, on baking sheet. Roast on sheet alongside lamb until tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Scrape squash from skins into bowl; add nutmeg and 2 tablespoons butter. Mash with fork until almost smooth; season with salt and pepper. Transfer lamb to plate. Strain braising liquid into bowl; spoon off fat, if desired. Return liquid to pot. Add fresh fennel, orange peel and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds. Simmer until fennel is tender and sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, about 15 minutes. Return lamb to sauce.

Rewarm lamb shanks, covered, over medium-low heat, about 15 minutes. Rewarm squash in saucepan over low heat, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Chard and final preparation: While lamb and squash heat, cut out center stem from chard leaves; discard stems. Coarsely tear leaves. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add chard and toss until chard wilts, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide squash and chard among 4 plates. Arrange lamb atop vegetables; spoon sauce with fennel over.

Makes 4 servings.
 
Bon Appétit
October 2000
Cory Schreiber
Cooking Class
Wildwood Restaurant & Bar, Portland, OR

       

 
mickey nir ( mickeyn@netvision.net.il ) from tel aviv on 02/05/01  
i keep making it over &over again. i some times make with turkey legs, and its very good too.

April Morris ( aprilmorris@earthlink.net ) from Anaheim, CA on 02/04/01  
This is an outstanding recipe for lamb shanks. I actually defat the shanks before cooking them. I also double the recipe and bake the shanks for 3 hours. The cinnamon and orange add delightful flavor and spice to the meat. The final cooking of the sauce, which the recipe calls for 15 minutes, actually takes about 75 minutes to reach the desired consistency. I've made this recipe three times now, all to my and our guests' delight.

A Cook from Carlisle, MA on 01/14/01  
A wonderful dish for company - unlike some other cooks, I found the prep time to be negligible, especially considering the quality of the end product. And because only one pot is used, clean up is minimal, so guests aren't stuck looking at a messy kitchen as the finishing touches are put on dinner. Although it is an easy recipe, do allow for enough time. The braising liquid reduced too quickly in the oven. At first I compensated by adding water, then I put a lid on the pot for the last 45 minutes. I found it crucial to keep the dish uncovered for as long as possible - it allows for a flavorful, caramelized surface. As for the fennel bulb and fennel seed added at the end, it did give the dish complexity, but might not be to everyone's liking. I would suggest ommitting it, and reducing the orange zest by half to suit a broader range of tastes.

Jamilyn ( jkikolski@yahoo.com ) from Raleigh, NC on 01/11/01  
I served this recipe to my fiance on his birthday. He was astonished! He is a lamb-lover anyway, and the meat was so tender it fell off the bone and melted in our mouths. I served it with a sticky vegetable risotto and vintage red wine, perfect for a crisp fall evening in front of a raging fire. The contrast of different colored vegetables (red peppers, green onions, and carrots) and the dark lamb against the white arborio rice really makes for a grand presentation. Now, every time we have a special occasion, my fiance asks, "Are you going to make that lamb again?"

Lynn ( meynn@aol.com ) from Sonoma, CA on 01/03/01  
I disagree with the some of the reviews! It does take time, but I feel definately worth it! I have made this several times for company and it gets rave reviews. It is important to turn the shanks OFTEN during braising however. I do not make the chard, I serve with mashed potatoes and green beans. Love this recipe!

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