Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SLOW-COOKER BRAISED LAMB SHANKS


I love our New Bern Farmer's Market.  Okay, I admit that it's small with not many vendors, and it's only open on Saturdays.  But for the size of our city, I'm just happy that we have quality local farm products available.  And, amazingly, we have not one, but two, sustainable farms that sell grass-fed animal products:  Rainbow Meadow Farms and Nooherooka, both in Snow Hill.

I bought 2 lovely lamb shanks from Snow Hill Farms during my last visit to the Farmer's Market.  Their products come frozen and shrink wrapped, ready to be put back into the freezer or thawed and cooked.  Having never cooked lamb shanks, I was in need of a good recipe, one that would use a crock pot.   Your slow cooker is your friend when you cook grass-fed meats, because they contain less fat and tend to be not as tender as corn- or grain-fed meats.  The trade off here is that grass-fed meats are more healthful and actually contain Omega 3's.  The meats we buy from grocery stores contain inflammatory Omega 6's that contribute to many degenerative diseases.

I decided to use a recipe from Williams-Sonoma.  Their recipes are always good, and I liked the list of ingredients.  My changes were minimal:  I added parsnips and mushrooms.  My hubby, not impressed with grass-fed meat, was not interested, so I froze the leftovers in small containers for my future meals.  The recipe below make a wonderful gravy that you can use over mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.  But I opted to puree some butternut squash that was cooked with sauteed onions, garlic, celery, curry powder, salt and pepper.  I placed some of the mushrooms from the slow cooker on the squash puree.  This was a most delightful meal, one that I'm going to be enjoying several times.  The meat was fall-apart tender and succulent, and squash puree and mushrooms were a perfect accompaniment.  And, P. S, if you don't want to buy grass-fed lamb shanks, you can use lamb shanks from the grocery store to make this.  Or beef or veal shanks for that matter.

Slow-Cooker Braised Lamb Shanks (adapted from Williams Sonoma)
Bear Rating:  9 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS:  1/2 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
6 oz.whole mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
2 lamb shanks, about 1 lb. each
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup drinking quality dry red wine

Combine onion, celery, carrot, parsnip, mushrooms, garlic, broth, tomatoes, paste, thyme and bay leaf in crock pot.  Stir to mix.  Season lamb with salt and pepper.  In a heavy pan large enough to fit the shanks, heat the oil until nearly smoking.  Add shanks and brown on all sides, about 7-8 minutes total.  Transfer to crock pot.  Remove saute pan from heat, pour in wine and return to medium-high heat.  Bring to simmer, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from pan bottom.  Pour this liquid and any scraped up bits into the crock pot, cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, then on low for about 2 additional hours, or till meat is very tender.  Transfer shanks (which should be falling apart by now) to serving dish.  Remove bay leaf from pot and puree liquids using an immersion blender or a regular blender.  Pour some sauce over shanks and pass the rest alongside.  Yield:  3-4 servings
Accompaniments:  Mashed potatoes, buttered parsley noodles, rice, pureed butternut squash.


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