Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fall-Apart Lamb Shanks with Almond-Chocolate Picada

I can't believe it's already March and although we're only a few days in, I already feel horribly behind on recipe posting even with two nights off from cooking this week. This recipe takes quite a bit of time, although not a ton of work. It's rich and satisfying, but not for those who want a quick and easy payoff. The chocolate flavour in the dish isn't strong, it just added a depth to the sauce. The almonds also aren't overly prominent. I might even be tempted to double them next time!

I changed the method below ever so slightly to avoid dirtying as many dishes. It affects the browning on the ingredients.

One year ago: Impossible Chocolate Flan
Two years ago: Tostados

Fall-Apart Lamb Shanks with Almond-Chocolate Picada (from The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen)

1 bottle (750ml) full-bodied red wine
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced crosswise
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
1 lemon, quartered
1/2 cup drained and chopped canned plum tomatoes
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2.25kg lamb shanks (4 - 6 shanks)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
chopped parsley, for garnish
Almond-Chocolate Picada
24 blanched almonds, toasted
4 garlic gloves
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 slice stale country white bread, cut 1" thick and toasted, crust trimmed
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp brandy
2 tsp lamb cooking juices

1. The day before, in a large saucepan, boil wine until reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes.
2. Add carrots, onion, leek, halved garlic head, lemon, plum tomatoes, thyme, oregano, peppercorns, and bay leaves and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool.
3. Put lamb shanks in a large glass bowl, add marinade, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
4. The next day, let meat return to room temperature. Remove lamb and pat dry. Discard lemon quarters and strain the marinade. Reserve the vegetables and wine separately.
5. Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Cook lamb shanks in hatches turning until browned all over. Set aside.
6. Preheat oven to 250F.
7. Add reserved vegetables to Dutch oven along with 1 tbsp oil and cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until deep brown and tender, about 15 minutes. Press vegetables to express oil.
8. Add 1/2 cup water to Dutch oven and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits until reduced to syrup. Pour wine from marinade into Dutch oven and heat to bare simmer.
9. Return lamb to Dutch oven and cover with a sheet of wet crumpled parchment paper. Place lid on and put in oven to cook for 4.5 - 5 hours or until meat is very tender.
10. Transfer lamb shanks to shallow baking dish and season with salt and papper. Cover with foil.
11. Strain cooking juices through a fine sieve set over a saucepan, pressing hard on solids. Skim off fat. Boil juices over high heat, skimming until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes. (Meat and sauce can be prepared in advance up to this point.)
12. To make picada, in a mortar or mini food processor, grind almonds and garlic to a paste. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
13. If refrigerated, let meat return to room temperature and reheat sauce.
14. Scrape picada into sauce and cook over moderately high heat until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
15. Pour sauce over lamb and bake at 250F for 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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