Braised lamb shank with lentils; cooked and raw beets

As promised here is a rundown of the lamb shank and beet recipes by Bruce Sherman of North Pond as printed in this month’s issue of Saveur:

It’s hard to remember a more memorable home dinner than this one.  Was it fussy?  Sure.  Was it worth it?  Definitely.

On a day that reached 90 degrees (is it really nearly October, this is Chicago afterall?), braising lamb shanks is usually not on my list of things to do.  However, seeing as I’d been marinating the lamb shanks since Saturday there really wasn’t an option.  Plus I was really looking forward to making this meal.

I’ll start with the beet presentation which happens to be more interesting than anyone would think raw and cooked beets could be.

What struck me most as I prepared the beets was the layering of flavors and intensities.  After the beets have been cooked Sherman has you take some of that cooking liquid and add it to the marinade which the (cooked) beets will sit in for two hours.  For the remainder of the cooking liquid he ends up having you reduce this down to a glaze which is powerful, not far from a gastrique in some ways with beet being an underlying flavor.

Once the cooked beets have marinated he has you take a little bit of the marinating liquid to make a vinaigrette with which to dress the raw beets.  What on the surface looks like a pretty simple presentation of beets ends up containing three different flavor profiles and intensities for the sauces, not to mention the textural difference between raw vs cooked.  One day I’d like to understand flavor and texture this well.  Oh, and the dish was delicious.

Moving on, the lamb was marinated in gewurtzraminer, fennel seed, coriander seed, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, garlic, cardamom pods, carrot, celery, onion, orange and ginger.  The smell of the marinade alone was enough to make me start drooling.

After 48 hours of marinating I dried the lamb shanks off, seasoned them and browned them on all sides.  Remove from the pan and add the marinade scraping the fond off the bottom of the pan.  Add some chicken stock (a white veal stock would probably work just as well if not better), add the shanks back, bring to a boil, cover & put in the oven at something below 300 for as long as you can get away with.  For me that was 3 and a half hours.

During this time I prepared the lentils which were infused with the flavor of bacon (as well as a few other other flavors).  To finish the lentils take a couple of cups of strained braising liquid and add, season and you’re off.  There were a few other ingredients as well, including Bosc pears, plum tomatoes (peeled and seeded) and acorn squash.

You can reduce the remaining braising liquid to drizzle over the lamb shanks which are served over the lentils.  The flavor combinations were memorable.

Will I make these dishes again ?  Most definitely.

And f you’re wondering why there are no photographs of the lamb it’s because they all came out too blurry (all two of them).

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