23 January 2011
Lamb Shanks with White Beans and Squash
In the realm of comfort food I have found a new love!
By my age you might think I'd have tried everything worth trying, especially when it comes to comfort food which is often close to our hearts and works it's magic on us because of its association with fond childhood memories. Even so it hasn't worked out that way. I don't think I had ever even tasted lamb more than once or twice until last year.
I know I never ate lamb shanks until one odd evening when my husband and I went out to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner. I was in the mood to try something different. I chose Lamb Shanks from the seasonal menu and discovered love at first bite. Tender, flavorful, hearty, I ate the whole dish and couldn't wait to come back for more.
Though I savored my discovery it was another long time before I tried cooking Lamb Shanks at home. Then one Friday afternoon I found myself looking for something new at the meat counter of my local supermarket. Fondly remembering that succulent meat that nearly fell off the bone at the restaurant I picked out several lamb shanks, crossed my fingers and hoped to come up with something at least half as delicious at home.
I settled on a recipe for Lamb Shanks with Butternut Squash from Simply Recipes. It had what seemed like a long list of ingredients and directions but it looked and sounded perfect for a weekend dinner at home.
Though there were a lot of steps to the recipe, none of the steps were really difficult and few required precision. Even better, the result was worth it. My husband said that dinner might be the best he had ever eaten!
While that is a nice compliment under any circumstances you may not understand how nice unless you know my husband is no foodie and hardly takes any special enjoyment in food that lacks nostalgic connotations. He generally eats quickly and as needed. I never know what to make for him on a special occasion. So, when he said this might be the best meal he had ever eaten, I almost fell over ....but then, I couldn't disagree. It really was delicious!
Lamb Shanks with White Beans and Squash
Adapted from a recipe at Simply Recipes
6 Tablespoons olive oil
4 lamb shanks
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic
6 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup tomato paste
3 cups dry red wine
6 cups chicken stock
8 sprigs of thyme
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/3 cups cooked cannellini beans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large dutch oven until it shimmers. (I used my 5-quart Le Creuset oval french oven.) Pat lamb shanks dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and brown on all sides in batches. When browned remove the shanks to a plate.
Add garlic cloves along with the celery, carrots and onion to the casserole. Saute over medium heat until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the wine. Bring to boil over high heat. Boil until the mixture reduces and begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.
Add the shanks back to the casserole and add the stock and sprigs of thyme. Return to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and place the casserole in the oven until the meat is very tender, 1½ to 2½ hours. Turn the shanks from time to time to cook evenly.
While the lamb shanks are cooking, toss the squash in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast on a rack positioned high in the same oven with the lamb shanks if desired, at 350 degrees, until tender, approximately 1 hour.
When very tender, remove the lamb shanks from the oven and transfer to a plate. Strain the remaining liquid from the pan pushing as much of the sauce through the strainer as possible, pressing the vegetables through with a wooden spoon. Discard the remains. Skim fat. Return the sauce to the casserole, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Bring to boil over medium heat. Add back the lamb shanks and stir in the squash. Simmer until warmed through.
Add the beans, cover and remove from heat.
To serve: spoon the vegetables and sauce into large shallow serving soup bowls and set a lamb shank on top of each,
Remove the meat and discard bone. Evenly distribute vegetables, sauce and meat in serving bowls.
Serves 4 to 6.