Monday, March 7, 2011

Slow-Cooked Lamb/Veal Shanks in Pinot Noir

Gotta love that Wall Street Journal. We are constantly butting heads on all issues political (yes, I acknowledge that it's odd for a card-carrying left-winger to read an unabashedly right-wing publication every day), but they have really stepped up their weekend reporting on soft news, especially from a foodie perspective. Every Saturday, I can pretty much rely on a decent handful of food-focused articles and recipes from well-respected chefs across this great land of ours (cue the National Anthem). Many of these recipes I can even duplicate in the Commissary with some measure of success. For example, the spotlight a few Saturdays ago was on crock pot meals (dear to my heart since you set 'em up in the morning and by dinnertime, you have a meal ready to go without having to figure out how to entertain the kids while you're cooking away), one of which jumped out at me. Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have a renowned nose-to-tail restaurant in Los Angeles (appropriately named "Animal") and contributed a slow-cooked lamb shank recipe for the WSJ article. With Mrs. Hackknife completing her final presentation for partnership last Thursday, I wanted to cook a special celebratory meal and found that this would fill the bill nicely.

Since most crock-pot dishes rely heavily on the sauce to provide the flavor, you usually need to have something to mop up all of the good juice left behind on the plate, so I started out by making a loaf of our rustic house bread to go with the meat. Getting the ingredients for the main recipe wasn't too bad (I had just obtained coriander seeds for the chicken and coconut paella, for example); however, finding 4 1-lb lamb shanks proved to be somewhat difficult. I thought that this would be the perfect time to try out the butcher shop in downtown Frankfort that I had recently been clued into, but of course, they were closed for vacation all week. Large Corporate Grocery didn't have them and my local ethnic grocery just had two - one that was bigger than I needed (about 1.5 lb) and one that was just right (about 1 lb). To compensate, I also bought a couple of veal shanks (lamb, veal, baby sheep, baby cow, what's the difference, right?) and brought everything home. Step 1 involved browning the meat in a Dutch oven, which made the house smell wonderful at first, but ultimately resulted in a fried meat haze settling over everything on the first floor (it's getting better, but I still think I'm entering a kebab stand every time I enter the house). Once the meat was browned, you dumped the excess fat, cooked your vegetables, deglazed with pinot noir, dumped the meat, veggies, spices, and juice into the crock pot, and away we went. After 4 hours, dinner was served and was quite nice, especially since we got the added bonus of a little bone marrow from the veal shanks (by golly, I nearly made osso bucco without even realizing it). The bread was perfect for sopping up the gravy, the progeny quietly refused most of the meal, and everyone was pleased for the most part.

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