Cook the Book – Braised Lamb Shanks with Thyme, Cinnamon and Fennel

We hauled yesterday evening to a chilly, darkening sky.  It’s now drizzly wet and not too cold and everyone is down working on the through hull fittings, spraying the bottom with the pressure washer to remove a year’s worth of muck and growth and setting up staging for the sanding and painting portion of the program.

This is exactly the kind of day that calls for one of those long, simmering stews while the oven gives off the welcomed radiant heat that warms chilled fingers and bones.

If I were a nicer boss, I’d be making this for my crew tonight.  But I’m not, so I won’t.  Instead, I’m off to test some baking recipes which they’ll get to have for an afternoon break.  And hey, I did whip up dinner for them last night though, in all honesty, I tried to whip up a store bought pizza from our local pizzeria about 10 minutes before closing time.  And then got the busy signal for the next 1o minutes.  Trust me.  No restaurant is that busy at 7:50pm.  On a Thursday night.  In Rockland, Maine.  And then, of course, at 8:01 I got the machine.  I’m blonde, but I’m not that dense.

So, instead, we had the perfect comfort food – sloppy joes.  Good mama.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Thyme, Cinnamon and Fennel

4 lamb shanks, 3/4- to 1-pound each
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 medium onions, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 large parsnips, chopped
4 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 whole garlic heads; unpeeled, cut in half horizontally
1 cup dry red wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 large orange, peeled, quartered and pith cut away
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375°. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in large, heavy-duty, ovenproof pot over high heat. Add the lamb and cook until brown on all sides (about 10 minutes). Remove the lamb and keep warm. Add the butter to the drippings in the pot. Add the onion, carrots, parsnips, thyme, and garlic.  Sauté until the vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and boil until the liquid is reduced almost to a glaze, about 4 minutes. Return the lamb shanks to the pot, arranging them in a single layer. Add the stock, orange, cinnamon sticks, and fennel seeds; bring to boil. Place the pot in the oven and cook, uncovered, until tender, turning and basting often (about 2 hours 15 minutes). Transfer the lamb to a plate and keep warm. Strain the braising liquid into a bowl and spoon off the fat. Return the liquid to the pot.  Simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot; cover and warm over medium-low heat 10 to 15 minutes, until the lamb is completely reheated. Serve.

Serves 4

Off to test recipes

Photo credit (as always!) Elizabeth Poisson

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