Braising – a most wonderful cooking technique, by which meat is seared quickly in fat, in a large cooking pot such as a Dutch oven, and then cooked slowly on low heat in a flavorful liquid. At least, that’s how I describe it and that’s how I do it, using beef, pork, chicken or, in this case, lamb shanks.
I have a gorgeous recipe for lamb shanks that I follow quite religiously … odd for me, I know, but the result is so delicious that I’ve always been slightly afraid to deviate from it. But, as you may have guessed, I am not home in my own kitchen with my blue binder of tested recipes in hand (of which Braised Lamb Shanks is one), so I had to do what I am family-famous for: wing it with whatever I have to work with.
And guess what?! The “wing it” shanks I made for my mom and I last night were fantastic – a real testament to trusting one’s ability to cook creatively and make a great dish.
The original recipe has an herb rub for the meat and gremolata to serve with the finished dish, etc. I had none of the necessary ingredients for these because our time in Hawaii is winding down. Like all good children and children of the children of the Great Depression, my mom and I refuse to buy any food that isn’t absolutely necessary. We are eating our way to an empty fridge over the next week. Thus I had only my trusty Hawaiian seasoned salt, and pepper … and whatever vegetables, at el, are in our diminishing food resources.
When I get home to my blue binder, I will share the original recipe for comparison sake, but for now I proudly share my “wing it” version of Braised Lamb Shanks.
Braised Lamb Shanks
2 lamb shanks
Hawaiian seasoning salt
1 tablespoon of oil or butter
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
Heat oil or butter in a Dutch oven on the stove at medium/medium-high setting. In the meantime, season shanks with salt and pepper, massaging the meat with the seasoning. Add to pot and sear, holding the shanks with tongs or a fork to brown the ends and all sides of the meat. Remove meat from the pot, set aside and cover.
Lower heat to medium/medium-low. Add celery, carrots, onions and garlic to the pot and stir frequently until the vegetables are slightly softened. Add broth and wine, bring to a boil and cook at an easy boil for 5 minutes.
Return shanks to the pot, reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for approximately 2 hours. Check about every ½ hour and gently turn the meat over each time, so the sides of the meat have equal time to cook in the liquid.
Serve, using the vegetables and some of the broth as gravy. I usually offer extra gravy/sauce in a bowl or gravy boat on the dining table to add during the meal.
I like to serve this dish with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes: Simply boil potatoes, then mash with a tablespoon of butter, a couple of tablespoons of milk or cream and 2 oz. (or a little more) of mild goat cheese (and a dash or two of salt and pepper).
We had some asparagus in the fridge so, of course, I used that. But any vegetable works fine and adds a nice sprite of color to the dish.
Braising is such an easy, flavorful way to serve meat. I think it’s one of the best cooking techniques a person can use – not much preparation required and it offers amazingly tasty dishes that fool guests into thinking you spent hours in the kitchen.
Any great braising recipe you want to share with me? Come on – be my guest blogger – I would love it!
Eat well. Be happy.