Sunday, April 22, 2012

Braised Lamb Shanks w/Sweet Potatoes + Tomatoes

Last night we had our family friends, John + Jane, over for dinner. Both are attorneys and both have served as mentors to me over the years as I've navigated everything from law school admission to the actual practice of law. In fact, it was John's encouragement and enthusiasm that pushed me towards law and away from social work. We were at my parents' house for dinner - I think I was a junior in college - having a lively conversation about what, I don't know. I countered one of John's statements, and he just stopped, smiled at me, and said "You would make an excellent attorney." Well, I was rather caught off-guard, but that one seemingly insignificant sentence stuck in my head. Sure, I'd thought about being an attorney before, but here was someone in the field who actually thought I could do it. Shortly thereafter, I found a job at a small law firm, applied for school, and managed to get accepted!

When I passed the bar and got a job, John was the attorney who brought me before Judge Spivey to be sworn in. Six months into practice, it was John who left me a voicemail at work checking in to see how I was doing. I am sure that six years from now, John and Jane will still be checking in, guiding me through new adventures.

I decided to make braised lamb shanks because they are one of my favorite ways to prepare lamb. If done properly, the meat falls right off the bone, succulent and flavorful. It is also relatively inexpensive and not technically difficult. And they can be prepared ahead of time, sometimes particularly important for this dinner as I was going to be in Chapel Hill for a 10 mile run Saturday morning. I prepared this just before heading out of town Friday afternoon, placed them in the oven, and texted Jason to ask him to remove them when he got home from work. It worked out perfectly.

Braised Lamb Shanks w/Sweet Potatoes + Tomatoes
Kelley Gondring

In a large skillet, heat:
2 tablespoons olive oil

While the oil is heating, sprinkle:
salt, black pepper, and dried thyme
over all sides of 4-6 trimmed lamb shanks

Once the oil is hot, place 2-3 lamb shanks in the oil. Let brown for 2 minutes on each side. Remove and set in deep casserole dish (I actually used an extra large skillet with a lid). Repeat until all shanks are browned.

Add to casserole dish:
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth

Set aside.

In the same large skillet, heat:
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large vidalia onion, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and
5 springs thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced

Sautee over medium heat until onions are browned and tender.

Stir in:
2 cups chicken broth
1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes*, including the juice
4 ounces tomato paste
15 prunes, pits removed

Let simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a whisk to incorporate the tomato paste.

*I'm not a big fan of tomato seeds, so I squeezed the whole tomatoes over the sink to push out most of the seeds.

Pour the tomato mixture over the browned lamb shanks and sweet potatoes.

If preparing shanks one day ahead of time, bake for 2 hours at 200. Turn off oven but leave shanks inside the oven for an additional thirty minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool (about 2 hours) before placing in refrigerator. To reheat, remove the shanks from the fridge about two hours before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Preheat oven 200. Reheating the shanks will take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour.

If serving the same day, bake for 2.5-3 hours at 200.

Serve with mashed potatoes.

Eat up!

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