Saturday, November 01, 2008

Lambie Lusciousness

For those of you who might be curious about the result of the black cardamom quest, I have but one word: "Yum."

Or maybe the words of those at the table would give a little more of the gist, such as "Freaking awesome!"

Served with a side of Roy's Calais Flint polenta, made from organic corn grown and ground at Ayers Creek Farm, I would say it approached heavenly. Though the rich, earthy flavor kept it firmly in the terrestrial realm.

Black Pepper Braised Lamb Shanks
Adapted from a recipe by Chef Floyd Cardoz for Epicurious
For Rub
6 whole black cardamom pods
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. whole allspice
2 whole dried Thai chiles [I used dried red chiles...pepper flakes would be fine, too]
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
8 bone-in lamb shanks [I used six]

For Lamb
About 1/4 cup corn oil
4 med. onions, coarsely chopped
4 whole cloves
4 Turkish bay leaves
1/2 c. dry white wine
9 c. lamb stock or water [I used homemade chicken stock]
3 Tbsp. tamarind paste
2 whole sprigs fresh rosemary
2 whole sprigs fresh thyme
4 Tbsp. (packed) light brown sugar
1 med. celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt

In a heavy, dry skillet over moderate heat, toast cardamom, coriander, peppercorns, cumin, allspice, and chiles, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. Using spice or coffee grinder, grind spices and chiles to semi-fine powder. In small bowl, stir together spice powder and salt.

Pat lamb shanks dry. Measure 1 teaspoon spice mixture into separate small bowl and set aside. Rub remaining mixture over shanks and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. In 8-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, sear shanks, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to large roasting pan.

Do not clean fat from pot. Lower heat to moderate and add onions, cloves and bay leaves. Sauté until onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in reserved teaspoon spice mixture and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in wine, lamb stock, tamarind paste, rosemary, thyme, brown sugar, celery root, ginger, garlic, and salt, then raise heat and bring to boil. Pour mixture over shanks, cover tightly with foil, and braise in middle of oven until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

The original recipe says to remove the shanks to a platter, pour the braising liquid through a strainer and reduce the liquid by half. This is then used as a sauce to pour over the shanks. I just couldn't see throwing out all the lovely braised vegetables that were so full of flavor, so I just transferred the meat, vegetables and liquid into a serving bowl and ladled it over the polenta.

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