It has been cool here in Copley; summer is ending, and the wind is carrying a hint of fall. That's why, when I was paging through Pam Anderson's Perfect One-Dish Dinners, this recipe jumped out at me as the one that I had to make. Lamb shanks with white beans and tomatoes screams "fall comfort meal" to me, and it seemed like the ideal recipe to start with in my review of Pam's book.
As usual, Pam has the recipe dialed in - she has it just as simple as it can be, and no simpler. The recipe is straightforward without being overly simplistic. The lamb is tender and falling apart, like a good braised lamb should be. Her technique of braising in a high-heat oven, with a foil wrapped pan worked well.
*I had to cook the lamb a bit longer than Pam recommended to get it truly fork tender. That seems to happen to me with a lot of published recipes, from a variety of sources. I wonder if my oven is running a little cool.
I'm a huge fan of lamb, and lamb shanks. But the best part of this recipe is the white beans. They're more than a base for the lamb. They get a short simmer in the pot at the very end of the cooking, just before serving. The beans keep their unique creamy flavor, which mingles with the meaty juices and sweet aromatics that have been braising in the pot. The result is white beans and vegetables with layers of flavor.
Recipe: Lamb Shanks with Tomatoes and White Beans
Adapted From: Pam Anderson, Perfect One-Dish Dinners
- 8 quart dutch oven
- heavy duty aluminum foil
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 4 lamb shanks
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 stalks celery, minced
- 1 cup baby carrots (or 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 2 teaspoon herbes de provence
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 ½ cups homemade chicken stock (or water. Pam's OK with store-bought broth, but I'm not a fan of it...)
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 4 cups navy beans (or other white beans), drained, preferably homemade (but canned are OK. Pam and I agree on that one.)
1. Brown the lamb shanks: Set the oven to 450*F. Sprinkle the lamb shanks evenly with 2 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. Heat the oil in the dutch oven over medium-high heat until just showing wisps of smoke, then brown the lamb shanks well on their two wide sides, about 4 minutes per side. Move the shanks to a bowl. The browning may need to be done in two batches if the shanks are too big for all four to fit in the dutch oven at once.
|I crowded the pan a bit in this picture, to get the ends
of the two shanks to brown
2. Saute the aromatics: Add enough oil to the fat in the dutch oven to bring it up to 2 tablespoons, and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, celery, and baby carrots to the dutch oven, then sprinkle with the ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Saute, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until the aromatics are softened, about 5 minutes. Make a hole in the center of the aromatics, and add the garlic, herbes de provence, and tomato paste. Let them sit for about a minute, or until you can smell the garlic, then stir them into the other aromatics. Sprinkle with the flour, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until the flour is no longer dry and evenly spread throughout the aromatics. Add the red wine, and cook for 1 minute, scraping to loosen any aromatics or flour stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock and the tomatoes, increase the heat to high, and stir to mix all the ingredients in the dutch oven. Put the lamb shanks and any juices back into the dutch oven, submerging them in the liquid as much as possible.
3. Braise the lamb: Tear off a piece of foil a little larger than the pan lid, and, using pot holders, press it down against the lamb shanks. Seal the foil against the rim of the dutch oven, then push the lid down on top of the pot, making sure it is tightly sealed against the foil and the rim of the dutch oven. Leave the dutch oven over high heat until you hear the contents bubbling, then transfer to the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours. Remove from the oven, remove the lid, and carefully remove the foil from the pot. (Remember- the pot and the lid are rocket hot from being in a 450*F oven - don't brand yourself!) Put the pot back in the oven without the lid, and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the top of the lamb is browned, and the lamb is fork tender.
4. Finish the dish: Remove the pot from the oven to the stove top, and put over medium heat. Remove the lamb shanks to a platter. Add the white beans to the liquid in the dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Taste the beans and liquid, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the lamb shanks on a bed of the beans and liquid.
*As I said in the opening, I used Pam's technique of braising in a high heat oven, with foil pressed right against the surface of the food and sealed with the lid. It worked pretty well, but I had to cook the lamb for some extra time to get it properly tender. Again, I think this is a function of different ovens. As Christopher Kimball once said, never trust the timings in a recipe! I always check if something is done, especially with my oven - it seems like roasts and baking always take longer than suggested for me.
*Pam originally sized this recipe for six shanks, and cooks it in a heavy-duty roasting pan. I'm still working on getting one of those so I scaled the recipe down for four shanks to fit in my dutch oven. The shanks were big ones, so this was plenty of food for all five of us, with some wonderful leftovers for lunch the next day.
Unfortunately, the kids were a little turned off by the vegetables mixed in with the beans. I have this problem a lot with stews. I love them, but for the kids there's just too much "stuff" in there. I've got them converted to chili with beans, and my daughter was willing to fish the white beans out of the other "stuff" to eat them, so I think I'm making progress.
Boy, do I hope so...
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Review: Pam Anderson Perfect One-Dish Dinners
Special thanks to Great American Lamb for the great looking lamb shanks I used in this recipe.
Pam Anderson Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers
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