Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lamb Shanks, Cannellini Beans, and Oranged-up Swiss Chard

I wish this photo was better. These lamb shanks deserve better!

We had these beauties in February sometime (Dave is at the Caps game tonight, so I thought I'd show you this instead of my leftovers!) and I remember that it was cold outside and perfect for this slow-cooked recipe out of Food and Wine magazine. This is one of those meals that doesn't require a lot of hands-on fiddling, but you definitely need to get started early.

Let me tell you about the smells. Holy moly, my apartment smelled delicious. I am often jealous of the smells coming out of my neighbors doors as I come up the stairs, but this time, I feel like I was able to give back a little and maybe, just maybe, they were wondering if they could come over with a cake and score some shanks. ;)

What's so interesting is that there is seriously nothing ON the shanks but salt and pepper and then some garlic cloves nestled in the pot. That's it. No juice, no other seasonings, nothing but shanky, garlicky goodness. The juices from the lamb are used to flavor the sauce that goes into the beans, too, so the meaty flavor remains throughout the dish. Yum!

What I am about to say is going to sound a little ridiculous, considering how much praise I gave the shanks.... but I think the orange swiss chard was my favorite thing on the plate. It was seriously THAT good. Crazy-amazing, in fact. The bright acidity and fruity sweetness, accented with the bacon... terrific! Perfect pairing with the lamb and cannellini beans.

Hurry out and make this before the weather changes (and if you're in the southern hemisphere, make this once it's cold) - you won't regret it!

Pot-Roasted Lamb Shanks with Cannellini Beans
c/o Food and Wine Magazine, February 2008

For a comforting wintry meal, F&W Test Kitchen Supervisor Marcia Kiesel, adopts Simple French Food author Richard Olney's method of roasting lamb shanks at a low temperature with no added liquid. The spare ingredients yield an incredibly rich sauce that infuses the beans. The currant and berry notes in a right bank Bordeaux brighten this luxurious dish.

1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 bay leaf
4 meaty lamb shanks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped thyme

In a large saucepan, cover the beans and the bay leaf with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain the beans and discard the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300°. Heat an enameled cast-iron casserole that's large enough to hold the lamb shanks in a single layer. Season the shanks with salt and black pepper and cook over moderate heat, turning a few times, until lightly browned all over, about 15 minutes. Nestle the garlic cloves among the shanks. Cover and cook in the oven for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, turning 3 times, until the shanks are very tender.

Reduce the oven temperature to 200°. Transfer the shanks to a small roasting pan, and the garlic cloves to a small bowl. Cover the shanks with foil and keep warm in the oven. Strain the juices from the casserole into a bowl and skim off the fat. Return the juices to the casserole, add the chicken stock and set the casserole over a burner. Boil over high heat until the juices have reduced to 2 cups, about 12 minutes.

Peel the garlic cloves and add the sherry vinegar. With a fork, mash to a paste. Add the garlic paste to the juices in the casserole and stir in the beans and thyme. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

Place the lamb shanks on plates and serve with the beans.

MAKE AHEAD The beans can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight in their liquid. The lamb can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight.

SERVE WITH Chard with Orange and Bacon.

WINE These succulent lamb shanks will go best with a Merlot-dominated red Bordeaux from what's known as the right bank—the appellation of Pomerol, for instance. Merlot's gamey, black cherry depth, which the 2005 Christian Moueix Pomerol has in abundance, is potent enough to pair with rich meats; at the same time it's not so tannic that it will conflict with the orange-spiked Swiss chard.

Swiss Chard with Orange and Bacon
c/o Food and Wine Magazine, February 2008

Swiss chard spiked with both tart orange juice and tangy orange zest could easily clash with many red wines. But the citrusy greens here only serve to enhance the fruitiness of a Merlot-laden Bordeaux. This side dish would also be delicious with swordfish or pork.

2 pounds Swiss chard, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 thin slices of lean-cut bacon, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the chard until bright green and tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, squeezing out any excess water from the leaves.

In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, 5 minutes. Transfer all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon to a plate.

Pour the orange juice into the skillet and boil over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the orange zest and the chard, season with salt and stir to coat. Transfer to a bowl, top with the reserved bacon and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight.


Vicki said...

Beautiful dish! Last time I made lamb shanks, my 4-lb chihuahua stole one off my hubbie's plate. I caught her trotting through the house with a bone as big as she is! Everyone loves lamb, I guess.

farida said...

looks delicious to me:) i can even smell it now that I am getting hungry:)

Megan said...

I agree with you on the orange swiss chard. This is a incredible recipe.