MOROCCAN BRAISED LAMB SHANK

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Braising is one of my favorite cooking techniques:  you simply brown the meat in the pan, add liquid, and cook it slowly until everything falls off the bone.  The toughest meat is the most delicious when braised, as these constantly used muscles develop a deep, rich flavor. I took my braising on a North African turn today, by adding a Moroccan style spice blend and ingredients like lamb and chickpeas.  This is perfect cold whether cooking and is delicious served over a plate of fluffy couscous. Enjoy!

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INGREDIENTS

For 3-4

3 lamb shanks

1 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

olive oil

1 cup red wine

I use carmenere, though anything full boiled would work, such as malbec or cabs

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas

I cook mine with garlic and rosemary

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

1 medium eggplant, quartered and sliced into 1 inch pieces

5 ounces spinach leaves

2 cups beef stock

INGREDIENTS (SPICE RUB)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch cayenne

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix together the spice rub. Pat the lamb dry, and rub the spice mix into it.  Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over high heat, pour in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and once the pan is very hot and almost smoking, place the shanks in the pan, and sear until they are nicely browned on all sides. Set the meat aside.

In the pot, brown your onions and herbs (cumin, oregano, thyme, and rosemary), adding more olive oil if needed.  This will take about 10 minutes, and add garlic at the last minute.  When the onions are ready, add the wine and reduce by half by letting it cook for another 5 minutes.  Add all other ingredients except for the baby spinach and beef stock.

Stir in your lamb, add your stock, and cover.  Let simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour and a half, smashing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with your spoon.  When done, the meat should be pulling off the bone.  Remove the lamb and simmer the sauce over medium high heat for 20 minutes, or until reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the spinach, cook for another 5-10 minutes until it has wilted.

Serve over rice, quinoa, polenta, or your favorite carb.