Monday, February 22, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils and Curry

Although I love the flavor of curry powder, I find that it tends to overpower dishes.  I have made a number of recipes that use curry powder as the central flavoring component, and they all have tasted about the same regardless what other ingredients are used in the recipe.  My past results have made me avoid recipes with curry powder; what's the point of stressing over a new recipe if it will taste just like another one you have made before?

Fortunately, I let my prior experiences with Molly Stevens' recipes outweigh my experiences with curry powder and tried her recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils and Curry from All About BraisingIn this braise, the curry powder is noticeable, but plays a supporting role to the aromatics, lamb broth, and tomatoes that make up the slightly spicy braising liquid; a good baguette is a necessity for sopping up the last few spoonfuls of the liquid.  Lentils are a natural accompaniment to lamb and this dish is no exception.  Lamb, lentils, and a crunchy baguette and you have yourself perfection in a bowl. 

Lamb Shanks Braised with Lentils & Curry
Adapted from All About Braising 

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 lamb shanks
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Madras curry powder
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/2 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups lamb stock
  • 1/2 lb French lentils
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • lemon wedges or red wine vinegar for serving
Heat the oven to 300F.
Dry the lamb shanks with a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper. 
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large braising dish.  Add as many lamb shanks as will comfortably fit in the pan and cook until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes.  Set the shanks on a plate and brown the remaining batches.
Discard all but 2 tbsp of fat from the braising dish.  Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. 
Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the garlic.  Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the curry powder, 1 tbsp of the thyme, and 1 bay leaf.  Cook for 1 minute.
Stir in the tomatoes and stock.  Raise the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil.  Let the liquid boil for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon a few times to dislodge the brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and nestle in the lamb shanks.  Let the liquid return to a simmer then cover the braising dish and add it to the oven.  Braise for 2.5 hours, flipping the lamb shanks once as they cook.  
Meanwhile, parcook the lentils while the lamb cooks.  Add the lentils, 6 cups of water,  a 1/2 tbsp of thyme, and 1 bay leaf to a large pot and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook the lentils for 30 minutes.  Drain the lentils and set them aside to cool on a large plate.
Once the lamb shanks have braised for 2.5 hours, remove the braising dish from the oven.  Set the lamb shanks on a plate.  Stir the lentils into the braising liquid and add the lamb shanks back to the braising dish and cover the dish.  Continue to braise the lamb in the oven until the lamb is falling off the bone and then lentils are tender, approximately 30 minutes.
Remove the lamb shanks from the braising dish and set them on a plate.  Taste the braising liquid for salt and pepper.  Spoon the lentils with the braising liquid into serving bowls and top each bowl with a lamb shank.  Garnish the bowls with the chopped parsley.  Serve immediately, allowing your guests to sprinkle a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice over their bowl if desired.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Momofuku's Noodles with Ginger and Scallion Sauce


My latest Momofuku recreation, Ginger Scallion Sauce, is one of the easiest recipes in the book. Try it and you will understand why David Chang calls the sauce one of Momofuku's "mother sauces" that makes appearances in many of the restaurant empire's dishes.  The sauce will go with just about anything from meat to seafood to vegetables.  Replicating one of the dishes on the menu at Momofuku Noodle Bar, I served the sauce with soba noodles.  As Chang suggests, I topped the dish with the book's quick-pickled cucumbers (2 Kirby cukes tossed with 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt).  To make a complete meal of it, I also added pieces of sauteed chicken breast.  Served chilled, the dish would be an excellent dish for a picnic in the summer, but it was plenty tasty in the dead of winter.  

Ginger Scallions Sauce
Makes 3 cups

  • 2 scallion bunches, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp usukichi (light soy sauce)
  • 3/4 tsp Sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  1. Mix all ingredients together and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.   

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lamb Ragu


If you need to give yourself something to look forward to this winter, make like an Italian grandmother and whip up a big pot of ragu.  Just don’t tell your Italian grandmother you're making lamb ragu, and a recipe from a fancy-pants New York chef at that.  So maybe it’s not all that authentic, but you have to try Andrew Carmellini’s recipe for lamb ragu from Urban Italian.  All it takes is about 15 minutes of effort, and then you can sit on your couch for a few hours watching Seinfeld re-runs as your kitchen emanates aromas that will warm your entire home.  Try your best to pick up lamb meat from the shoulder—grind your own or ask your butcher to grind it— as the leaner cuts of meat will not be as tender.  It's also worth the effort to scrounge around for canned cherry tomatoes which have a sweet quality that complements lamb nicely.  

Lamb Ragu 
Adapted from Urban Italian

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs ground lamb, preferably from the shoulder
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups  dry red wine
  • 1 cup canned cherry or San Marzano tomatoes 
  • 3 cups chicken brother
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp rosemary leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb fresh pappardelle
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped
  • sheep-milk ricotta cheese, for serving 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the lamb to the pot.  As the lamb cooks, break it apart with the back of a wooden spoon.  Stir the lamb occasionally until it is browned, about 5 minutes.   If necessary, pour out any excess liquid that accumulates the pot as you cook the lamb; the liquid will steam, rather than brown, the lamb. 
  3. Add the carrot, celery, and onion to the pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir well for 1 minute.
  5. Pour the red wine into the pot.  Use a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Bring the wine to a boil and cook until the wine evaporates completely, about 5 minutes.  
  6. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, fennel, red pepper flakes, thyme, and rosemary to the pot.  Stir well to incorporate the ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Bring the ragu to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook the sauce until the ingredients are well incorporated and the excess liquid has evaporated, about 2 hours.  Taste the ragu for salt and pepper and keep warm over low heat.
  8. Cook the pappardelle in boiling salted water until it is al dente.  Drain the pasta and add it to the ragu.
  9. Add the butter and mint to the pasta and stir it well until the ragu clings to the noodles.  Serve the pasta immediately, topped with a drizzle of olive oil, the grated pecorino, and a dollop of ricotta cheese.   


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