December 6, 2009

An Intimate Dinner Party

Last night I got a little ambitious.  I really think I was just overwhelmed by a long shopping excursion at Whole Foods, but somehow I thought it would be a good idea to cook lamb shanks for a little dinner party of 3.  Now, I’ve never cooked lamb shanks in any kitchen, let alone in my non-kitchen, but I was undaunted and they actually came out ok!  I braised them in a pot smaller than I should have, and it couldn’t actually fit all the liquid I was supposed to add to the dish, but the 2 and half hours of cooking still did the trick.  Paired with white beans and spinach, it was the perfect meal for the first day of snow in New York.  We ended up having a lovely meal at around 9 and finished it off with a simple pear crisp.  The next time I do this, I’ll use much, much less liquid…

Lamb Shanks with White Beans (from Bon Appétit)
Serves 4


For lamb shanks
4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped coarse
1 medium carrot, chopped coarse
1 celery rib, chopped coarse
8 garlic cloves, chopped coarse
1 bottle Bordeaux or other full-bodied red wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 fresh thyme sprigs

For gremolata
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leafed)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
3 garlic cloves, minced

For beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, chopped fine
2 small carrots, chopped fine
2 celery ribs, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked white beans (preferably Great Northern or navy)
2 to 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 fresh tarragon sprigs


Make lamb shanks:
Pat lamb shanks dry and season with salt and pepper. In an 8-quart (mine was obviously MUCH smaller and I used a sauté pan) heavy flameproof casserole heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown lamb shanks well in batches, transferring to a plate as browned. To casserole add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and sauté until onion is softened. Add wine and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups. Return lamb shanks to casserole and stir in broth, tomato paste, and thyme. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer, covered, stirring and turning lamb shanks occasionally, 1 1/2 hours. Simmer mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 1 hour more, or until lamb shanks are tender.
Make the gremolata while lamb is cooking:
In a small bowl stir together gremolata ingredients.
Make beans while lamb is cooking:
In a saucepan heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring, 2 or 3 minutes, or until softened. Add beans, 2 cups broth, butter, and bay leaf and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and adding enough remaining broth to keep beans moist and to reach a creamy consistency, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and add half of gremolata and salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer lamb shanks to a plate and keep warm, covered with foil. Strain braising liquid through a sieve into a saucepan, discarding solids, and stir in butter and tarragon. Boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly. Sprinkle lamb shanks with remaining gremolata and serve with the braising liquid.

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