Braising is one of my favorite cooking techniques: you simply brown the meat in the pan, add liquid, and cook it slowly until everything falls off the bone. I gave my braising a North African flair today, using lamb with a Moroccan-style spice blend and chickpeas. This is perfect cold weather cooking and is delicious served over a plate of fluffy couscous. Enjoy!
||The lamb shank is the star of this dish, so make sure to buy the best you can find. Lambs bred on small farms with engaged farmers are always your best bet. Pure Bred Lamb Shanks, $50, Williams Sonoma
|3 lamb shanks, 1lb each
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine (Note: I use carmenere, though anything full bodied would work, such as malbec or cabernet)
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas (Note: I cook mine with garlic and rosemary)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 medium eggplant, quartered and sliced into 1-inch pieces
5 ounces spinach leaves
2 cups beef stock
||for the spice rub:
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
(serves three to four
1. Mix together all ingredients for the spice rub.
2. Pat the lamb dry, and rub the spice mix into it.
3. Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over high heat and pour in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the pan is very hot and almost smoking, place the shanks in the pan, and sear until they are nicely browned on all sides. Set the meat aside.
4. In the same pot, brown your onions and herbs (cumin, oregano, thyme, and rosemary), adding more olive oil if needed. After 9 minutes and add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
5. When the onions are ready, add the wine and reduce by half by letting it cook for another 5 minutes.
6. Add all other ingredients, except for the lamb, baby spinach, and beef stock.
7. Stir in your lamb, add your stock, and cover. Let simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour and a half. At some point while simmering, make sure to smash the tomatoes against the side of the pot with your spoon.
8. When done, the meat should be pulling off the bone. Remove the lamb and simmer the sauce over medium high heat for 20 minutes, or until reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning.
9. Add the spinach, cook for another 5-10 minutes until it has wilted.
Serve over rice, quinoa, polenta, or your favorite carb.
For more culinary inspiration, head over to the Kitchy Kitchen
Photographs: Claire Thomas