This finally happened last week. First I got an email form the hotel I was staying that I had received some mail… yeah, really nice. I ran to the hotel which is a block away from my current address and picked up a letter with addresses and names written by hand…, like in the old days. The sender, some Dr Greg Ward. I don’t know any Doctors by that name.. there was a second name right under it but I didn’t bother reading on, I was leaving for work and I was already late. At first I thought spam but how many spam/junk mails are written by hand. I got to work. I remembered that about 2 months ago, my blogger friend Shanna (have you seen her blog? click here!) and Greg, her husband, had emailed me about sending me samples from their Co-Op which features a wonderful array of locally grown ingredients. Amongst those. Chile. But not any chile, oh no.
Chimayó chiles, of which I knew nothing about. Check out this link if you are interested in the history of this chile, it’s quite amazing actually. I had no clue that what was in that envelope was a bag of dried ground Chimayó chile, all the way from the originating geographic location. Thank you Shannah for the lovely gift. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. Anyone who’s lived in Canada probably knows how meticulous their border customs office can be. They probably held the package for about a month… it either sat there totally unnoticed or they ran some serious lab tests on it to figure out why it smelled so freaking awesome. The baggie was slightly opened, so must have been the latter. When I opened the envelope, there was chile powder everywhere, but do not worry, Shanna, I was able to save all of it!
Now on to the recipe. Lamb. Nothing to do with the fact that is easter weekend for those who celebrate this holiday. But I’ve been craving it. Lamb from New Zealand, the land of the lambs. If you haven’t been. There are lots of lambs there, lots. And they are cute. And delicious too. Terrific combination. Here in Vancouver, they can be found easily at groceries stores. Given the size of the one I cooked, must have been the hind shank, lot’s of connective tissue, collagen, some marbling and a lovely bone. All points to a long and slow braise.
I tested the chile for heat. Which meant placing about a tsp of it my mouth. It was mildly spicy, perfect actually. I decided I would do a 24 hour dry rub (meanly featuring Shanna’s gift) on the shank and then braise it over vegetables and serve it with a side of cauliflower puree. Some mint leaves for garnishing. And here’s how it went:
Shank dry rub:
1 lamb shank
1 Tbsp chile blend
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp onion powder
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
1/4 Tbsp cinnamon powder
2/3 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 Tbsp sweet paprika
mirepoix, 1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 2 carrots, coarse dice
2 tsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp olive oil
a drizzle honey
2/3 C whole milk
salt to taste
Toasted sesame seeds
Fresh mint leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
For the lamb shank dry rub. Prepare the dry rub. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl big enough to fit the shank. Don’t use any olive oil. These ingredients are soluble in water for the most part. If you add oil, the ingredients will get coated with it and will not permeate the shank as efficiently. I actually added a little bit of water, so it wasn’t exactly a dry rub… maybe a slightly wet rub. Get in there with your hands and rub the mix all over the shank, including the bone. It might seem like a lot of salt, but kosher salt isn’t as salty and some of it will evenly salt the shank (like a brine). Some of it will be left behind in the bowl and the rest will drip away when the shank is braising, salting the vegetables. It will be ok. Place uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours.
For the cauliflower puree. Cut off the florets and discard the tough end portion of the stem. In a shallow saucepan, place the florets and add about 1/2 inch of water, bring to a boil and shallow steam with the lid on until cauliflower is soft but not mushy. Season with a little salt. When done, reduce the water until there’s only a little left. Allow to cool. Place the contents of the saucepan in a blender. Add a little milk. Cover the blender and place a dry kitchen towel over it, pressing down firmly. Blend, stop. Press the cauliflower chunks with a spatula deeper into the blender jar. Cover, kitchen towel, more milk, blend…, adjust seasoning, repeat. I do it this way because I don’t want to ue too much milk and end up with a runny cream. You can always reduce it in a saucepan if this ever happens and get it back to the right consistency, but I rather avoid that step and prefer to get it right straight inside the blender. And immersion blender is a nicer alternative to this, but mine still bubble wrapped from moving to Canada.
Braising the Lamb Shank. Preheat your oven to 500F for about an hour. Add a drizzle of olive oil to an oven safe pot, like an all stainless steel pot or cast iron dutch oven which is my favorite. Place the shank and brown the widest end (the knee end I guess) on medium high heat for a few minutes. The first stage is browning the meat, to develop flavor. You can do it all in the same pot either over the stove or in the oven. I prefer the oven, is less work and browns more evenly. I give the shank a bit of a head start by browning the side in which it will stand (sit on) for the rest of the cooking process. Place the pot in the oven and let it brown for about 10-12 minutes. (or the stock of your liking, chicken, beef, lamb, vegetable, probably not fish but who knows!) carefully remove the pot from the oven. Add the vegetable, prunes, and tomato paste with about 1/2 C of water. Reduce the oven temperature to 200F -250F and cook for as long as 4 hours. Remove from the oven, place shank over serving plate. On the stove over medium heat, place the that same pot with the vegetables, add the honey. Don’t let it burn, but let it become a bit darker. Stir. Deglaze with a splash of water, stir until water is reduced completely and remove form the heat.
Plating. Spoon the braised vegetables around the lamb shank. Add as much cauliflower puree as you want. I would have drowned the plate, that puree is so good! but I plated for the photo so I kept it a bit classier. Garnish with some toasted sesame seeds and Fresh mint leaves. Pepper to taste.