Monday, April 06, 2009

Curried Lamb with Cabbage and Potatoes

This was going to be my St. Patrick's Day post. This seemingly never-ending winter and workday stresses have left me feeling a little blah about blogging, and I am not at my most inspired in the kitchen. But there have been some symbols of spring to inspire me, both in the kitchen and out in the world.

Like this robin Bob and I saw in Andersonville last Saturday on our way to brunch. It was a little chilly still, and overcast, but we could almost smell spring in the air, and this bright cheery bird helped foster the illusion that warmer weather was a'coming.

But alas, it was not to be. Instead, we got a wet, sloppy snowstorm that lasted all day. This is the bus stop where I get off to go to the Big Apple on Clark Street. It was depressing to be out in all that snow at the end of March. And what's worse is that it's supposed to snow today as well. Happy April!

So back to St. Patrick's Day. I've done corned beef twice in recent years, and I made an Irish lamb stew in between. I wanted to something a little different this year, and I had two lamb shanks in the freezer just waiting to be braised.
As usual, I braised my lamb the day before I used it. I knew I wanted to make some kind of stew with it, but I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to flavor it, so I kept the seasonings of the braise pretty simple - just salt and pepper. I kept the aromatics pretty light too, mainly because I didn't have that much in the refrigerator and I am trying to be a little more frugal and just use what I have on hand at any given time. So I cut up an onion, some garlic, and a few celery ribs. For the liquid, I used about three cups of chicken broth I cooked up in my slow cooker, half a bottle of red wine, and a cup of water.

They came out quite lovely and yielded an abundance of meat. I had decided to put an Indian spin on them, and planned to make a curried stew. But they had cabbage and red potatoes on sale for a ridiculously low price (and the cabbage was from Texas no less), so I decided to use the more traditional Irish stew ingredients, but stay with Indian spices. A cool raita could bring it all together, I thought.

The end result was not exactly what I was expecting, but it tasted pretty good all the same. The potatoes were too big, but that's easily fixed. I thought the cabbage would take longer to cook down so I didn't even check it for an hour, at which time I discovered that it was pretty much mush. I used a tablespoon of sweet curry and a tablespoon of Madras curry, which made it just a touch hotter than I would have liked it, especially for this Irish/Indian blend. But the grated cucumber in the raita provided the bit of crunch I had hoped to get from the cabbage, so that worked out ok in the end.

Would I make this again? Probably not, which is why I am not going to share a recipe with you. But I will definitely be doing something with braised lamb shanks again.
2 lamb shanks
2 Tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups lamb, chicken or vegetable broth
half a bottle of red wine
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 large cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 ribs celery, sliced or chopped
any other vegetables (carrots, fennel, leeks, etc.)
any fresh or dried herbs (oregano, thyme, marjoram, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Line a cookie sheet (one that has a shallow lip on all four sides) with aluminum foil. Season the lamb shanks liberally with salt and pepper and place on the cookie sheet. When the oven has reached 400 degrees, put the shanks in the oven and cook them for 15 minutes (until they are just browned).

In the meantime, heat the oil in a dutch oven or saucepan big enough to hold the lamb shanks. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. Add the garlic, celery, and any other vegetables you are using and cook, still stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes or so, until all of the vegetables are wilted and translucent. Add the broth and the wine. Lay the lamb shanks in the mixture, and then use water to bring the liquid up to cover the meat about two-thirds of the way.

Bring just to a simmer, then turn the heat as low as it will go without going out. Cover and cook for two to three hours, until the meat falls away from the bone when you test it with a fork. Check after two hours; it might take longer than three.

Remove the shanks from the pan. Skim the fat from the liquid and continue to cook until it reduces by about a third. Remove the meat from the bones and return it to the liquid. Or, strain the liquid and store it separately from the meat if you want to make soup or stew. You can refrigerate the shanks overnight and remove the meat the next day.

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