04/04/06

Chile Braised Lamb Shanks

We like to cook and serve our lamb shanks whole so that a big, knobby bone is sticking up out of the bowl, Flintstone-style, just begging to be gnawed on. (You may need to ask your butcher for a shank or front leg bone that’s not already cut into smaller osso bucco-style slices.) In general, lamb shanks are a great cut to use for rich-tasting broths because they contain such gelatinous goodness.

Serves 6

6 lamb shanks, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups flour for coating
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
12 cups chicken stock, water, or combination of both
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced*
6 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 cup grated añejo cheese (Cacique is a good brand)

Generously sprinkle the shanks with the salt and pepper, cayenne, paprika, and cumin. Dip in the flour to lightly coat. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the shanks on all sides, transfer to a platter, and reserve.

Reduce heat to medium and cook the onions in the same pan, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for 1 minute to release aromas. Return the shanks to the pan and pour in the stock or water. (If the shanks are not completely covered by liquid, add enough water to cover.)

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered, about 45 minutes, occasionally skimming foam and fat from the top. Stir in the tomatoes and chiles and cook for an additional 40 minutes, or until shank is tender. To test for doneness, pierce with a fork. If the shank easily slides off fork, the meat is tender. Remove from heat.

To serve, arrange each shank over a bed of rice in each serving bowl. Top with plenty of broth and vegetables. Garnish with the cheese and serve immediately.

* Fresh chiles and bell peppers can be roasted over a gas flame or on a tray under the broiler. Keep turning so the skin is evenly charred, without burning and drying out the flesh. Transfer charred peppers to a plastic bag, tie the top closed and let steam until cool to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes. The best way to peel is just to pull off the charred skin by hand and then dip the peppers briefly in water to remove any blackened bits. Do not peel the peppers under running water since that will wash away flavorful juices. Once peeled, cut away stems, seeds, and veins.

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