Here’s the deal: you will read this entry, and you will do what I tell you, and once you do you will be happy. Pay attention now, this is a three-step process. Obey!
Step 1: Arrange to have a nice dinner with a couple of people two nights in a row. This is key, it is the whole point of this exercise.
Step 2: This comes to me via Crooked Timber, normally a political weblog, and is a recipe for braised lamb shanks, very slightly modified (olive oil v. canola, spanish onions v. cooking onions). It is dirt simple; the only way to screw it up is to set out with screwing it up as your main objective. You could teach a toadstool to execute this recipe to perfection. You will follow this recipe, as follows:
- 6 lamb shanks (3/4 to 1 pound each), trimmed of excess fat
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 spanish onion, sliced thick
- 2 celery ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 3 cups chicken stock
- Ground black pepper
With that, you will:
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle shanks with salt. Heat oil in a large, nonreactive saute pan over medium-high heat.
- (optional) Add shanks to pan in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding. Saute until browned on all sides, 5-7 minutes. Using tongs, transfer shanks to a plate as they brown.
- Add onions, celery, garlic, tomato paste, a light sprinkling of salt and 1 teaspoon of oregano; saute to soften vegetables slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Add red wine, then chicken stock to the skillet, stirring with a wooden spoons to loosen browned bits from skillet bottom. Bring liquid to simmer; transfer vegetables and liquid into a deep braising pan, large enough to hold the shanks in a single layer. If your skillet is large enough for all of the shanks, there is no need to transfer. Add shanks, season with salt, pepper, and remaining oregano.
- Cover pan (with foil if pan has no lid) and transfer it to the oven; braise shanks for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and continue braising until shank tops are browned, about 30 minutes. Turn shanks and continue braising until remaining side has browned and shanks are fall-off-the-bone tender.
- Remove pan from oven; let shanks rest for at least 15 minutes. Carefully transfer shanks with tongs to each of 6 plates. Arrange a portion of vegetables around each shank. Skim excess fat from braising liquid and adjust seasoning. Spoon a portion of braising liquid over each shank and serve.
If you are serving less than six people, you should reduce the number of lamb shanks accordingly, but you will not reduce the amount of everything else in there by less than a third. This is important for later.
Step 3: This is all me. Do not throw out the juice left over in the pan from the lamb shanks, and there should be plenty.
- Six to twelve chicken thighs, two to three per person
- A golf-ball-sized hunk of ginger root
- Two large cloves of garlic
- Two tablespoons of olive oil
- Three green onions, and any other vegetables you might like that stir-fry up good
- Salt and pepper
Here’s the plan:
- Before you do the cleanup from the lamb shanks, cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and put them in a tupperware container that has lots of extra room. Pour all the leftover juice from the lamb shank skillet over the chicken. Give it all a good stir with some chopsticks to make sure that the chicken is swimming in it.
- Put it in the fridge until the next day. Go back to your company, or finish the dishes up, or whatever; do what you have to do to end your day right. Sleep well.
- Before you head out the door in the morning, give the the tupperware another good shake and put it back in the fridge.
- When it’s dinner-cooking time, start cooking the rice, then mince up the garlic, peel and chop the ginger, and cut up the rest of the vegetables. The rice should have about a ten minute head start on the rest of the meal.
- Put a frying pan (non-stick, if you’ve got it) on on medium-high heat, and let it warm up. Then put the olive oil in, and then the garlic and ginger. Stir them around in the oil until the garlic starts to brown, then pour the entire contents of the tupperware into the pan. Stir and let it reduce.
- When it is about three-quarters reduced, throw in your vegetables. Let it reduce the rest of the way and crisp up a bit.
- Serve, on a bed of the rice that should be done by now.
The first meal was good, but the taste of that second one (considering that, with a rice cooker, the instructions are basically “cook until done”) really knocked me over. So go try it, already. I’m telling you, they’re both really good.