Monday, February 27, 2012

Lean on Lamb Supper Club

I was recently contacted by the Tri-Lamb Group to host a Lean on Lamb Supper Club. The Tri-Lamb Group is a collective of lamb producers from the US, Australia and New Zealand which is devoted to raising awareness about the wonderful nutritional benefits of lamb and educating consumers about how to incorporate it into a healthy diet. They sent me some gorgeous lamb shanks and the ingredients to make a fabulous and healthy lamb recipe for myself and some friends.

I was really excited because I don't have much experience cooking with lamb. I grew up eating it at Easter and that's about it. Occasionally I will experiment with it, like my Shepherds Pie last week, but for the most part it's not part of my regular cooking routine. The Tri-Lamb Group very generously provided me with the lamb and ingredients to make the braised lamb shanks, but I was not otherwise compensated for this experiment. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Read more to see how the dinner turned out!!!

Initially, I was sort of shocked at how lean and healthy lamb is. Not that I ever considered it unhealthy, just that I hadn't really thought through the nutritional benefits. A 3oz serving of lamb has only 175 calories and is packed with protein, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, selenium, and iron. It is also low in saturated fat and cholesterol.There are many different cuts of lamb that can be used to make a whole bunch of amazing healthy recipes.

So, fast forward to Saturday afternoon. I've got my ingredients, the wine, and my apartment is clean. I went to get the lamb shanks started and my Calphalon dutch oven just explodes! The ceramic coating just cracked and exploded on the heat of the stove, sending little flecks all over my kitchen. This is my absolute favorite pot, the thing I make almost every recipe in. I bought it a few years ago after seeing Julie & Julia and love it so much. After some quick internet research, I determined that the pot is dead and is probably not safe to cook in. Since we have lived exclusively in teeny tiny apartments, I only own 4 pots. Thus far, I have been well served with just these few things (pasta pot, sauce pot, large lobster pot, and the dutch oven). Now, I'm panicking about how to cook this delicious food with what I've got. I considered running out to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy a Le Cruset, but then I realized those are way outside my price range. So then Craig came to the rescue! He (in his words) MacGuyver'd the cooking situation. What we settled on was searing the meat and sauteing the veggies in my cast iron skillet and then putting everything in the lobster pot (the only thing big enough) to braise for a few hours. I was nervous, but everything turned out super delicious. I think things would have cooked quicker in the oven instead of the stove top, but I am pleased with the quality of the recipe. The meat was just falling off the bone.

Things picked up considerably after the great cookware fiasco. I was able to get the lamb started, pour myself a glass of wine, and start enjoying the evening.

Supper Club Menu:
Iggy's Bread w/ garlic infused olive oil
Lamb shanks braised with tomatoes, white beans and kale
Roasted garlic root vegetable mash
Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with mustard and fennel

Trumpeter Malbec
Orlean's Hill Organic Alexandria

Roasted Garlic Root Vegetable Mash 
So. The lamb was fabulous. Among my guests, I had some lamb non-believers, but everyone was impressed by how delicious and tender the lamb shanks were. The recipe, a simple braise with tomatoes and white beans, was a flavorful compliment to the meat. Since I can't stick to a recipe to save my life, I made some minor modifications, mostly adding kale to squeeze some greens into the recipe. The sauce was so incredibly flavorful, we were all moping it up with bread after we finished the (generous) portions of meat. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and complexity of the meat, I always sort of assumed lamb was bland. It added a really smoky, meaty flavor to the sauce, which was bursting with healthy protein and fiber, courtesy of the beans, tomatoes and kale. I kept the sodium down by minimizing the added salt and using low-sodium broth. At the end of the night, everyone was loving the lamb. Including Archer, who jumped up and snagged himself a piece while I was trying to take photos. He seemed to really enjoy it because he had it all over his face when he passed out on the couch with a full belly... 
Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Mustard and Fennel
The Tri-Lamb Group also included a Supper Club Guide for each guest. It includes information about lamb cuts, cooking methods, and includes a bunch of delicious recipes. You can download the guide here.  I am excited to try the lamb pizza! So I had to diverge a bit from the Guide's version of this recipe, for quantity and lack of Dutch oven. I braised the shanks for about 2 hours, 15 minutes total. The appropriate braise time will vary depending on the size of the shanks you're using. They are finished when the meat is falling off the bones.

Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans and Tomatoes:
(adapted from the Lean on Lamb Series)
Note: This recipe will serve 4 - I made a double for my guests
4 lamb shanks (approx 1lb each) (I had large shanks which were over 2lbs each)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 celery ribs, chopped into 1/2" chunks
2-3 medium carrots, chopped into 1/2" chunks
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1.5 tbsp dried herbs de provence
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2.5 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
1 can (15oz) cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed
3 cups lactino kale, washed and chopped

1. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven on medium heat.
2. Pat shanks totally dry and season with salt and pepper to taste
3. Add the shanks to the hot oil and cook 4 minutes per side, until browned
4. Remove shanks and set aside
5. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Saute on medium heat 3-4 minutes, until softened
6. Add wine and tomato paste to deglaze the pan, lightly scraping the bottom
7. Add herbs, tomatoes and 1.5 cups chicken broth
8. Season with salt and pepper
9. Bring the mixture to a simmer
10. Nestle browned shanks into the mixture, making sure each piece of meat is 2/3 covered with liquid
11. Cover and cook on med-low heat for 75 minutes
12. Add kale and remaining 1 cup of broth, cover and continue to cook for another 30 minutes
13. Add beans, cover and simmer for 15-30 minutes
14. Serve shanks (or carved large shanks) over bean and tomato mixture
15. Serve with crusty bread for dipping!

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At February 27, 2012 at 10:39 PM , Blogger Stephanie said...

This is a beautiful meal - I especially love the first picture. It looks like a dish from a gourmet restaurant. The lamb recipe reminds me of cassoulet, especially with the white beans. Yum!

At February 27, 2012 at 11:00 PM , Blogger Sweet and Salty SF said...

Ditto on the beauty of the first picture! I really like lamb and your recipe sounds and looks especially delish!

At February 28, 2012 at 1:18 AM , Blogger PolaM said...

Love lamb! And your turned out great!

For the pot, I just got one at IKEA that seems to be working great so far and is much cheaper than the other comparable alternatives....

At February 28, 2012 at 1:32 AM , Blogger Yummy said...

The whole meal looks incredibly good!

At February 28, 2012 at 4:03 AM , Blogger Maya said...

I love lamb so much more than other meats. It's flavour is second to none, its flesh sweet and always succulent from the fat around the cuts, it makes the best burgers and kebabs.

At February 28, 2012 at 9:56 AM , Blogger Dara Reppucci said...

Thanks Pola! That is a great suggestion. I have found some amazing kitchen stuff at Ikea.

At February 28, 2012 at 10:48 AM , Blogger Dara Reppucci said...

Agreed! This dinner truly showed me how flavorful and versatile lamb can be. I look forward to trying out more dishes.

At February 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous recipe Dara, the photos look so yummy (I am only a recent lamb convert!).
I suggest you tell Calphalon about your issue with their cookware. They will likely ask you to send the pot back to them so they can analyze it; chances are they will send you something as a thank you. The pots are not meant to explode and I am certain they would be very happy to hear from you.

At February 28, 2012 at 1:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your "disaster", but glad you were able to save the meal. The pictures look amazing. If it was me (and we didn't just move into a house with a glass top stove), I'd look into cast iron. I love all mine, but can no longer use them (except on the grill)

At February 28, 2012 at 4:06 PM , Blogger Meghan said...

Holy WOW I want to eat all of that!

At February 28, 2012 at 6:14 PM , Blogger briarrose said...

Awesome job cooking under pressure there. :) The meal looks amazing and I am so drooling over here.

At February 28, 2012 at 8:40 PM , Blogger Carole said...

Here is a recipe using leftover lamb in a salad

At February 29, 2012 at 5:02 AM , Blogger Baker Street said...

Wow! You did well for cooking under pressure..

At April 23, 2012 at 10:56 AM , Blogger Monica said...

What a mouth watering dish!! I really love to perform this dish, Thanks for the recipe I learned a lot. catering bristol


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