Although St Patrick’s day has passed, and warm weather is fast approaching, there is still time for a comforting braise. Braising is the process of cooking meat, first by searing on high heat to develop color and then finishing by cooking on low heat with liquid. This method is the classic way to take tougher cuts of meat and turn them into something tender and delicious. The technique lends itself particularly well to lower cuts including oxtail, ribs, tongue, and shanks.
Shanks are the portion of the animal nearest the hoof. Lamb shanks are one of my favorite dishes because of the rich flavor and the texture of the meat. To accompany this dish, I did a mixed mash of potatoes, turnips, and peas. If you want to cut the cooking time drastically, I recommend using a pressure cooker. I pressure cooked these shanks for 30 minutes, and they were perfect. As the shanks are resting, you create a rich gravy to dress everything. If using a pressure cooker, start prepping your vegetables first and get the water boiling.
2-3 lbs of lamb shanks
1 cup of Guinness Stout
2 cup of beef stock
2 stalks of celery
2-3 Bay leaves
5-6 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp of vegetable oil
2-3 Yukon gold potatoes
2 cups of peas
½ cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp Flour
2 Tbsp Butter
Using a deep sided frying pan (if not using a pressure cooker use an oven-safe pan with a lid) heat oil over medium heat. Season lamb shanks liberally with salt and pepper. Once the oil has heated, place the lamb shanks in the hot pan and brown evenly on all sides. The more browning you get, the richer the flavor. Remove oil and deglaze the pan with beef stock and Guinness.
Scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan and cook for 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Roughly chop the onion, carrot, and celery. Smash the garlic and add to the pressure cooker along with the shanks. Add bay leaves, pour pan liquid over everything, cover and cook for 30 minutes if using a pressure cooker. If using the traditional method, place in a 300-degree oven for 2-3 hours, or until tender.
For the mash, boil water in a medium-sized pot. Dice the potatoes and turnips, add them to the boiling water and cook until fork tender. Near the end of the cooking time add garlic. After the garlic has cooked for about five minutes, add frozen peas and cook for five more minutes on high heat. The frozen peas will crash the temperature of the water. This is good because you don’t want the peas to overcook. Strain the water and mash the vegetables with butter and heavy cream. This is intended to be a rustic mash, so don’t worry about making it smooth.
When the lamb shanks have finished, remove them from the liquid, and set aside to rest under foil. Remove as much fat as possible and transfer the liquid to a pan over medium heat. Mix two tablespoons of room temperature butter with an equal amount of flour. Depending on how much liquid is left, you may want to reduce it a little bit to concentrate the flavors or dilute it. Use your better judgment. Once the sauce has come to a simmer, add half of the butter mixture and whisk until incorporated. Add the other half and whisk some more. Take it off the heat immediately. If it has thickened too much, just add a little beef stock. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, place a generous spoonful or two of mash, creating a well. Artfully prop a lamb shank beside or on top of the mash. Dress with the pan sauce, garnish with parsley, and enjoy with a Guinness.