Thursday, November 7, 2013

pomegranate-merlot braised lamb shanks.

'Tis the season for catalog inundation. There are so, so many that come to our door just before the holidays (I swear, Restoration Hardware's catalog alone rivals Vogue's September issue in size and weight), and I usually don't even bother breaking their bindings. But there was a recent recipe in the Williams-Sonoma catalog that did get my attention and, boy, I'm glad it did. It called for lamb shanks, fresh pomegranate, wine, and spices--none of which were too obscure you wouldn't have them in your cabinet right now. (Disclaimer: I always love when a recipe calls for a cup or less of wine. Oh, I have to open a bottle to cook this? Don't mind if I do!) The recipe was very doable ... even with a toddling toddler to keep an eye on. After a quick pan sear and sauté, the whole caboodle gets thrown into a crock pot for you to forget about until it's time to light the candles and serve-up the feast.
A mini-digression: Cecile has been so funny in the kitchen lately. Gone are the days when she'd lay in her bouncy seat and watch, or be happily occupied in the next room with toys. These days she insists on being involved, so I pull up a chair to the counter, stand her up on it, and constantly tell her not to touch "mommy's knife." When I was making this meal, she stole an onion from in front of her and promptly popped it into her mouth. She did not like that raw onion! I'm so happy I had my camera over my shoulder to snap her soured face. Silly girl.
Now, the recipe. Beginning with the ingredients: 
- 4 1/5 lb. lamb shanks*
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 3 T vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 tomato paste
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 c. Merlot
- 1 c. pomegranate juice
- 2 T honey
- 1 c. chicken broth
- six carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

*I only used 2 lb. of lamb, as I was only cooking for Jon, myself, and Cecile. The change didn't affect the recipe at all, and there was still a lot of lamb leftover for lunch the next day. 

Directions: Season the lamb with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 T oil. Brown the lamb on all sides, about 7-8 minutes. Transfer to a low cooker. Add remaining 1 T oil to pan and add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, thyme, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and bay leaf. Stir constantly for 1 minute. Add wine and pomegranate juice, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add honey, broth, salt and pepper. Pour into slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours. Add carrots and cook until lamb is tender, about 1 hour more. Transfer lamb and carrots to a large platter and cover with foil. Pour sauce into a saucepan; skim off excess fat. Set over high heat; boil until thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour sauce over lamb and sprinkle the dish with parsley and pomegranate seeds. Serve with cooked couscous. 
^^Pomegranates are almost as much fun as pumpkins, it seems :)))^^
So there you have it. Not sure the dish photographed as well as it looked in person, but don't let that stop you from trying it out. After all, there's nothing quite like the way a crock-pot dish will make your house smell, and I always love how cooking with a crock pot allows you the time to tidy the kitchen while the meal more or less takes care of itself. Win.