Deconstructed Dishes: Lamb & Lentils

2010-12-27T07:00:00Z 2012-11-01T15:33:46Z Deconstructed Dishes: Lamb & LentilsWritten by Erik Jacobs
Recipe by Nate Bonner
Photography by Rob Grimm
Feast Magazine | Inspired Local Food Culture/Midwest

Lamb shanks have an intense, earthy flavor but can be tough as leather if cooked via a dry heat method, such as baking. Searing and then simmering them for a few hours will transform them into meltingly tender morsels, with the connective tissue dissolving into collagen, which gives body to the sauce.

Lentils are a traditional French accompaniment to lamb, and in this dish the two work together fabulously. Like its cousin, cassoulet, this braised lamb dish is an ideal restorative food for a long winter.

Gabrielle DeMichele, Nate Bonner and Lucy Schnuck work together to formulate original recipes, brainstorming the best ingredients, methods and techniques to employ when teaching classes at the Schnucks Cooks Cooking School in Des Peres.

Braised Lamb Shanks with French Lentils

Serves | 6 to 8 |

Lamb

  • 6 to 8 baby lamb shanks
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • olive oil
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 shallots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cups Pinot Noir
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 8 lamb sausage links

Lentils

  • 2 cups du Puy lentils, washed well
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 5 slices smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, washed and diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups turkey stock, heated

| Preparation - Lamb | Rub shanks with salt and pepper. Toast cardamom and fennel seeds and use to season shanks. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Add oil to stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear lamb shanks well on all sides and set aside. Reduce heat to medium. Add carrots through garlic, cooking for 1 minute between each addition. When vegetables are just tender, add herbs and cook 1 minute more. Add wine, tomato paste and veal stock and bring just to a boil.

Place lamb shanks in pot. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 280ºF and continue to bake for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, grill sausages and keep warm until ready to serve.

| Preparation - Lentils | Soak lentils for 3 to 4 hours. Preheat oven to 300ºF. In a large sauté pan or saucepan, over medium-high heat, add duck fat. When melted, add bacon and sauté until cooked through but not browned. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetables one at a time, cooking a few minutes between additions. After adding garlic, immediately add thyme and bay leaf, stir, cover and sweat ingredients over low heat until tender. Drain lentils and add to pan. Pour in hot stock, stir, cover and bake for 35 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

| To Serve | Place lamb shank atop bed of lentils. Top with lamb sausage and garnish with toasted baguette slice.


The Ingredients, Deconstructed

Cardamom: A staple spice in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, cardamom has an exotic perfume and pronounced flavor. Cardamom can be found in different colors and in different forms - seed pods, extracted seeds or ground - but as with all spices, its whole form offers the best flavor. Toasting cardamom lightly before use really enhances and awakens the essential oils that are key to its intensity.

Fennel Seeds: Used extensively in Mediterranean and Indian cooking, fennel has a profile similar to anise, which has a mild licorice flavor. Fennel seed goes well in a variety of spice rubs and marinades.

Stock: Many cooks attest there's no real difference between stock and broth, especially when making it yourself. However, when purchasing packaged versions, here are some rules of thumb: Broth tends to be thinner than stock and seasoned, best in soup or to perk up bland dishes. Stock is lighter in salt or salt-free, but has deeper flavor and more body. Use it for making gravies and as a braising liquid.

Baby Lamb Shanks: Baby lamb shanks are very mild in flavor, being generally harvested when lambs are between 6 and 8 weeks old. The shank portions of the lamb are located above the hoof on the front and rear legs, and because these muscles are worked so often, they are tougher and contain more connective tissue than other cuts. Braising and stewing are the methods best suited to cooking this oft-overlooked cut.

Du Puy Lentils: These little gray-green lentils are considered the finest French lentils you can buy. Harvested in the town of Le Puy in the Auvergne region of France, these are AOC-protected by the French government. There are many types of French green lentils, but none so revered as du Puy. Less starchy than others, these will keep their shape and not turn mushy when cooked properly. Du Puy

Lentils: These little gray-green lentils are considered the finest French lentils you can buy. Harvested in the town of Le Puy in the Auvergne region of France, these are AOC-protected by the French government. There are many types of French green lentils, but none so revered as du Puy. Less starchy than others, these will keep their shape and not turn mushy when cooked properly.


JOIN US!

Curious about cassoulet? Get hands-on with chefs Nate and Lucy on Wed., Jan. 19 as they teach you to make this braised lamb dish along with traditional cassoulet and other rustic fare such as wilted-lettuce salad and upside-down caramel-apple pie.

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