In Autumn, the first nips of cold air waken our desire for braised dishes which take hours in the oven permeating the house with wonderful appetite-inducing aromas. One of our favorite go-to chef/authors for slow-cooking recipes is—as I’ve mentioned many times—Molly Stevens. This Braised Lamb Shanks Provençal hails from her All About Braising, a treasury of one-pot meals.
While it is not a complicated dish, you do have to carve out a good chunk of time from start to finish. We happened to have four lamb shanks in the freezer, and while the recipe calls for six, it was only The Hubs and me for dinner, which would also give us scrumptious leftovers for another weeknight.
Make sure to take the time to remove the bit of papery white covering called “fell”, and any large fatty deposits, from the shanks. This will lessen any gamey flavor as the meat is cooked. Best to use a small, sharp knife to loosen the silverskin, but don’t fuss with trying to peel off any of the thin membrane—this holds the shank together and will melt down during braising. (Oops, I may have gotten a little carried away and removed some of the silver skin too, mea culpa.)
A cherished side dish as an accompaniment for braised dishes is garlicky mashed potatoes—sigh. And this lamb dish provides plenty of luscious sauce for topping those spuds. Steamed green beans with a lemony vinaigrette completed the meal.
2 large yellow onions (about 1 pound total), chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 lb. plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or one 14½-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juice reserved)
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
1 cup chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
3 small or 2 large bay leaves
½ cup pitted and coarsely chopped oil-cured black olives, such as Nyons or Moroccan
¼ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat the oven to 325°F.
Trim the lamb shanks: If the shanks are covered in a tough parchment-like outer layer (called the fell), trim this away by inserting a thin knife under it to loosen and peeling back this layer. Remove any excess fat as well, but don’t fuss with trying to peel off any of the thin membrane—this holds the shank together and will melt down during braising.
Dredge the lamb shanks: Pour the flour into a shallow dish and stir in 1 tablespoon of the paprika. Season the shanks all over with salt and pepper. Roll half the shanks in the flour, lifting them out one by one and patting to remove any excess, and set them on a large plate or tray, without touching.
Brown the lamb shanks: Heat the oil in a large heavy-based braising pot (6- to 7- quart) over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the 3 flour-dredged shanks (you’re searing in two batches so as not to crowd the pot). Cook, turning the shanks with tongs, until they are gently browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the shanks to a plate or tray, without stacking or crowding. Dredge the remaining shanks in flour, patting to remove any excess, and brown them. Set beside the already browned shanks, and discard the remaining flour.
Make the aromatics and braising liquid: Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot and return the pot to the heat. If the bottom of the pot is at all blackened, wipe it out with a damp paper towel, being careful to leave behind any tasty caramelized drippings. Add the onions, tomatoes with their juice, and the garlic and season with the remaining ½ teaspoon paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions are mostly tender. Pour in the wine and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits on the bottom of the pot that will contribute flavor to the liquid. Simmer for 3 minutes. Pour in the stock, stir and scrape the bottom again, and simmer for another 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, zest the lemon: Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from half of 1 lemon, being careful to remove only the outermost yellow zest, not the bitter-tasting white pith; reserve the lemon. Add the zest to the pot, along with the bay leaves.
Make the braise: Arrange the lamb shanks on top of the vegetables. The shanks should fit fairly snugly in the pot, but you may need to arrange them “head-to-toe” so they fit more evenly. Don’t worry if they are stacked in two layers. Cover the pot with parchment paper, pressing down so that it nearly touches the lamb and the edges of the paper extend about an inch over the side of the pot. Set the lid in place, slide the pot into the lower part of the oven, and braise for about 2½ hours. Check the shanks every 35 to 45 minutes, turning them with tongs and moving those on top to the bottom and vice versa, and making sure that there is still plenty of braising liquid. If the liquid seems to be simmering too aggressively at any point, lower the oven heat by 10 to 15 degrees. If the liquid threatens to dry out, add ⅓ cup water. The shanks are done when the meat is entirely tender and they slide off a meat fork when you try to spear them.
Segment the lemon: While the shanks braise, use a thin-bladed knife (a boning knife works well) to carve the entire peel from the 2 lemons. The easiest way to do this is to first cut off the stem and blossom end of each one so the lemon is flat on the top and bottom. Then stand the lemon up and carve off the peel and white pith beneath it with arcing slices to expose the fruit. Trim away any bits of pith or membrane that you’ve left behind, until you have a whole naked lemon. Now, working over a small bowl to collect the juices, hold a lemon in one hand and cut out the individual segments, leaving as much of the membrane behind as you can. Drop the segments into the bowl, and pick out the seeds as you go. When you finish, you should be holding a random star-shaped membrane with very little fruit pulp attached. Give this a squeeze into the bowl and discard. Repeat with the second lemon.
The Finish: Transfer the shanks to a tray to catch any juices, and cover with foil to keep warm. Using a wide spoon, skim as much surface fat from the cooking liquid as possible. Lamb shanks tend to throw off quite a bit of fat: continue skimming (tilting the pot to gather all the liquid in one corner makes it easier) until you are satisfied. (We barely had any fat.) Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in the lemon segments, olives, and parsley. Taste for salt and pepper. Return the shanks to the braising liquid to reheat for a minute or two. Serve with plenty of sauce.
Although this looks like a traditional beef stew recipe, it’s not made like one. While the beef—or lamb as in our recipe—braises in the oven, the carrots, mushrooms, and onions roast on a sheet pan alongside for a caramelized flavor. How’s that for a change?
We made this on a Sunday afternoon for a weeknight meal when we knew there wouldn’t be much time to prep dinner. But of course we had to taste-test the finished product. WOW, it was fantastic. The lamb (you could use stew beef instead) was super tender and the sauce was so silky and full of flavor.
Instead of one or the other, we used both carrots and parsnips. If you choose to include parsnips, make sure to remove the woody core before cooking them.
4 carrots or parsnips, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces, or 2 cups baby carrots
2 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1 cup frozen peas
2 croissants, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (optional)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Arrange oven racks, placing one rack at the lowest level. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high. Add half the beef and bacon; cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a bowl. Add an additional 1 Tbsp. olive oil, remaining beef and bacon, and the sliced garlic to Dutch oven. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return all meat to Dutch oven. Stir in tomato paste; cook and stir 2 minutes.
Carefully add wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Reserve 1/2 cup of the 50%-less-sodium beef broth. Add remaining broth to meat mixture. Stir in thyme and 1/2 tsp. each salt and ground black pepper. Bring to boiling. Cover and place pot on the lower oven rack; braise 1 hour.
In a small bowl whisk together reserved 1/2 cup broth and the flour; stir into beef mixture. Stir in barley. Bake, covered, 35 minutes more or until barley is tender and stew is thickened.
Meanwhile, in a shallow baking pan combine carrots, mushrooms, onion, remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and remaining 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper; toss to coat. Place on a separate oven rack; roast, uncovered, 45 minutes, stirring once.
Stir vegetables and peas into stew; let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
OPTIONAL: For croutons: Line a shallow baking pan with foil. In a large bowl combine croissant chunks, melted butter, minced garlic, and parsley; toss to mix. Spread croissants evenly in prepared pan. Bake 5 minutes or until toasted; let cool. Serve croutons over stew.
*If you sub in brown rice, increase baking time in Step 3 to 45 minutes.
A new take on your steak and potatoes menu is this thinly sliced skirt steak with a lightly smoky, tangy paprika butter. While the steak recipe is enough to feed 10, and the potato recipe feeds 6-8, we halved both of them and still had leftovers for another meal. Both the meat and potato recipes hail from Food & Wine, neither of which employ a long list of ingredients.
Adobo Seco was our seasoning of choice for rubbing both sides of the steak(s), although just using salt and pepper works fine too. Remember, skirt steak is a very thin piece of meat so it will cook quickly on the grill, just a couple of minutes per side for medium rare. Make sure to slice against the grain when cutting it.
If desired, go ahead and make the paprika butter which can stand at room temperature for up to 4 hours; reheat the butter gently. We took the opportunity to do this step ahead of time, so we wouldn’t be rushed at the last minute.
Add water to a Dutch oven to a depth of 1/2 inch; place a steamer basket in Dutch oven. Bring water to a boil over high. Place potatoes in steamer basket. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and steam until potatoes are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium. Add sage leaves, and cook, stirring constantly, until leaves turn dark green in spots and butter is light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place potatoes on a baking sheet, and gently smash using the bottom of a measuring cup. Transfer to a large serving bowl, and gently toss with sage butter. Season with salt to taste.
Pork and apples is a classic, but usually an everyday pairing. Cook’s Illustrated turned to the French recipe for porc à la Normande to inspire a more elegant rendition. Using thick bone-in chops allows more leeway to avoid overcooking, while salting them an hour before cooking helps keep them moist.
An evenly heated pan is key to a good sear on these big chops, so heat your skillet over medium high for a full 5 minutes before turning up the heat. Cutting the apples into attractive rings provides a bed to raise the chops off the skillet’s bottom to allow for even cooking once transferred to the oven.
For a sauce with layered apple flavor, rely on a combination of sweet cider, cider vinegar, Calvados (or regular brandy), and a few chopped apples, which break down and help produce the right texture. A bit of butter gives the sauce richness, while chicken broth and bacon lend a balancing savoriness. Flambéing the sauce is critical to create an elegantly complex sauce, and doing it in two batches keeps the job easy.
Natural pork is preferred, but if the pork is enhanced (injected with a salt solution), just decrease the salt in step 1 to 1/2 teaspoon per chop. To ensure that they fit in the skillet, choose apples that are approximately 3 inches in diameter. With just the two of us for dinner, we cut the number of chops and apples down from 4 to 2, but kept the amount of the other ingredients the same. Applejack or regular brandy can be used in place of the Calvados. The amount of vinegar to add in step 4 will vary depending on the sweetness of your cider.
Before flambéing, Cook’s Illustrated highly suggests to roll up long shirtsleeves, tie back long hair, and turn off the exhaust fan and any lit burners. Use a long match or wooden skewer to flambé the brandy.
4 (12- to 14-ounce) bone-in pork rib chops, 1 inch thick
Kosher salt and pepper
4 Gala or Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cored
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 shallots, sliced
Pinch ground nutmeg
½ cup Calvados, Applejack or other brandy
1 ¾ cups apple cider
1 ¼ cups chicken broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1/4 tsp. minced
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. vegetable oil
½ – 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Evenly sprinkle each chop with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Place chops on large plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
While chops rest, cut 2 apples into 1/2-inch pieces. Cook bacon in medium saucepan over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add shallots, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
Off heat, add 1/4 cup Calvados and let warm through, about 5 seconds. Wave lit match over pan until Calvados ignites, then shake pan gently to distribute flames. When flames subside, 30 to 60 seconds, cover pan to ensure flame is extinguished, 15 seconds.
Add remaining 1/4 cup Calvados and repeat flambéing (flames will subside after 1 1/2 to 2 minutes). (If you have trouble igniting second addition, return pan to medium heat, bring to bare simmer, and remove from heat and try again.)
Once flames have extinguished, increase heat to medium-high; add cider, 1 cup broth, thyme sprigs, butter, and chopped apples; and bring to rapid simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very tender and mixture has reduced to 2 1/3 cups, 25 to 35 minutes. Cover and set aside.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
Slice remaining 2 apples into 1/2-inch-thick rings. Pat chops dry with paper towels and evenly sprinkle each chop with pepper to taste.
Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until beginning to smoke. Increase heat to high and brown chops on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer chops to large plate and reduce heat to medium.
Add apple rings and cook until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup broth and cook, scraping up any browned bits with rubber spatula, until liquid has evaporated, about 30 seconds.
Remove pan from heat, flip apple rings, and place chops on top of apple rings. Place skillet in oven and cook until chops register 135 to 140 degrees, 11 to 15 minutes.
Transfer chops and apple rings to serving platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
While chops rest, strain apple/brandy mixture through fine-mesh strainer set in large bowl, pressing on solids with ladle or rubber spatula to extract liquid; discard solids. (Make sure to use rubber spatula to scrape any apple solids on bottom of strainer into sauce.)
Stir in minced thyme and season sauce with vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Transfer sauce to serving bowl. Serve chops and apple rings, passing sauce separately.