Monday, May 14, 2007

Braised lamb shanks

Do you like your stews fatty? Put like that, the question prompts the obvious answer "No"; and it's certain that stews you get in smart restaurants will have been rigorously skimmed. But in getting rid of the fat, you're discarding a lot of flavour. At home, what you want sometimes is a rich, unctuous sauce, with a plain accompaniment such as boiled or crushed potatoes, or rice.

If you brown the meat first, you sometimes have to discard the fat you have used. Cubes of meat have to be seared at a high temperature, because they do not brown otherwise: they simply stew in the water they disgorge. The oil usually burns -- you do not want it in the finished dish. But lamb shanks will brown over a gentle heat.

4 lamb shanks
1 tbsp olive oil
1 head garlic, separated into cloves
1 sprig rosemary
50 ml chicken stock, or wine, or water

In a heavy casserole large enough to contain the shanks in a single layer, warm the olive oil over a medium flame. Brown the shanks all over, turning down the flame if the sizzling is too dramatic, or if the oil shows any sign of degrading. You may find that, once the browning has started, a setting just above the minimum will suffice.

Add the garlic and rosemary, and pour in the stock (or wine, or water). Season, and place the casserole in a gas mark S/130 C oven for two and a half to three hours. Turn the shanks from time to time, and check to see that the liquid is simmering very gently.

You may find that you have quite a lot of liquid. Remove the shanks to a plate, and pour the liquid through a sieve into a saucepan. Return the shanks to the casserole, and put them back in the oven. Squeeze the garlic from the husks, and add them to the contents of the saucepan; discard the husks and the rosemary. Bubble the liquid until it becomes syrupy; but do not reduce it to such an extent that each person gets only a small puddle of it, or that it becomes unpleasantly salty.

Plate the shanks and pour the sauce over them; or serve the sauce separately.

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