I had a steak earlier this week and it was just okay. I’m not eating as much meat as I used to and certainly less steak. At the same, I am greatly enjoying the tougher cuts of meat, the challenges in the kitchen to make them tender and relishing the triumph of tasting a delicious, slow-cooked cut of meat that is succulent and falls off the bone.
I had this sense of triumph (again) this afternoon after plating and tasting this lamb shanks with beans. Lamb and goat have been the primary proteins in Greek cuisine for eons and I’m delighted to pair the lamb with another olden staple in beans. This meal requires a little prep, some organization and a little patience. The navy beans have to be soaked overnight in water (then drained), prepping your ingredients (mise en place) will take away any stress in putting the dish together and finally, some time (patience waiting for the beans and lamb shanks to slow cook (braise) in the oven. This is a Sunday meal that will reward you with fall-off the bone lamb, tender beans that stick to your ribs and and aroma that will take you into a Greek kitchen.
Braised Lamb Shanks & Beans (Κοτσι Αρνιου με Φασολια)
1 Dutch oven (or other oven-safe vessel with lid)
4 lamb shanks
flour for dredging (+ 1 tsp)
1 cup of dried navy beans (soaked in water overnight)
1/4 cup of diced bacon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled & diced
3 medium onions (2 diced & one whole)
10 cloves of garlic, whole
6 whole allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup tomato puree (pomodoro/passata)
1 + 1 cup of hot water
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. of fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. of fresh rosemary leaves
- Place your Dutch over medium heat on your stove-top and add the bacon and a splash of water. The water will help render the fat and get it crispy. Once the bacon has crisped up, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add a couple of turns of olive oil if the pot looks a little dry. Season your lamb shanks well with coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper and then dredge with all-purpose flour. Brown the lamb shanks on all sides (in batches if they all don’t fit in at the same time. Remove your shanks and reserve.
- Add the olive oil diced celery, carrots, 2 of the three onions (diced). The third onion will be kept whole and you will stud it by inserting the whole allspice berries into it. Now throw this onion into the the pot along with the garlic, bay leaves, smoked paprika, some salt and pepper and stir to coat. Simmer while occasionally stirring for 5-6 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Pre-heat your oven to 350F.
- Now it’s time to add the wine and allow to reduce for about 3 minutes. Now add the beans (drained), the tomato puree, thyme, rosemary and stir in. Now add the lamb shanks and a cup of water (the liquid in the Dutch oven should almost cover the shanks). Cover and place the Dutch oven in your pre-heated oven for 90 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper or if you would like more herbs in the mix. Add one more cup of hot water, stir in and place in the oven (again covered) for another 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, taste and adjust seasoning (if necessary).
- Place a lamb shank on each plate and serve with the beans, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, fresh ground pepper and a spring of rosemary for garnish.
- This dish screams to be served with some good, crusty bread and some Kalamata olives on side. Scoop some sauce and beans with the bread, pop an olive in your mouth, have a sip of a Domaine Gerovassliou Evangelo Red and have a forkful of lamb & do it all over again.
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