I had just finished WWOOF-ing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) for a week in Sicily and one of my fellow workers offered to drive my roommate and I back to Palermo in his rosemary green Fiat to catch our Navi. I remember racing through the rolling hills toward Palermo with exotic sounds from a CD closing an incredible week. As we left the car, I asked for the artists name and promptly forgot it as soon as we began to search for an arancini, a deep fried rice ball, which Palermo is known for. We found the arancini but I have searched for those same tantalizing sounds ever since that day. It permeates the memory of my entire week, despite being only one hour of it. I first heard St. Germain’s self titled album shortly before it was released. (Thank you NPR First Listen!) I was transported to another place entirely, almost back to Sicily in the back seat of that Fiat. Isn’t it incredible how music has that ability?
Food has that same unique ability. Think about one of your mom’s or grandmother’s homemade dishes taking you back to your childhood next to a mixing bowl in the kitchen. The lamb shank recipe below with rich cardamom and new spring onions enlightened my day and brightened my taste buds. Additionally, swiss chard has not been one of my favorite vegetables but braised with the lamb they become enrobed in flavor, any bitterness hidden. Savor and enjoy!
Vinyl: St. Germain, self titled
Lamb Shanks Braised with Swiss Chard
Prep Time – 40 minutes
Cook Time – 2 hrs 30 min
Total Time – 3 hrs 10 min
Serves approx. 4, with meat removed from shank bones
o 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
o 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
o ½ teaspoon of all-spice
o ½ c of all-purpose flour
o ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
o ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
o 2 -1 pound lamb shanks
o 2 tablespoons of olive oil
o 10 spring onions, chopped
o 4 garlic cloves, minced
o 1- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
o 6-8 ounces of chicken stock
o 2 teaspoons tomato paste
o ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
o Large pinch of saffron, crumbled
o 2 lbs of swiss chard, split between red and green
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix ½ teaspoon of cardamom, cinnamon and all spice each with flour and salt and pepper. Dip the lamb shanks in the flour mixture to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in dutch oven or large oven proof skillet. Add the lamb shanks and sear until brown on all sides. Remove the lamb shanks.
2. Take half of the spring onions, add to dutch oven and stir over medium heat for about 3 minutes, adding garlic in the last 30 seconds. Add the rest of the spices, the tomatoes in juice, tomato paste and broth to the dutch oven. Once the dutch oven is boiling, add lamb shanks. Cover with lid or foil and place in the oven.
3. Once lamb is in the oven, take the swiss chard and remove each center rib starting from the stem up. Cut the chard ribs in even ¼-1/2 inch pieces and set aside. Stacking the leaves, slice into ½-1 inch wide strips and set aside. If the leaves aren’t slicing smoothly, reduce the size of your stack and resume.
4. Remember to turn lamb shanks every 30 minutes to ensure even coloring. Braise for about 2 hours or until tender. Once they are tender, remove the dutch oven and place the lamb shanks on a rimmed plate or baking sheet.
5. Set skillet or dutch oven on top of the one of the burners and bring to a boil with medium high heat. Add the swiss chard ribs, the rest of the spring onions and mix well. Add the lamb shanks back in and place entire dutch oven back in the oven, covered.
6. After 20 minutes, if the chard ribs are tender, remove the lamb shanks for a final time and add in the sliced chard leaves. Mix well, season with salt and pepper and top with the lamb shanks. Place back in the oven, uncovered for about 5 minutes until chard leaves are tender.
7. Lamb can be served solo with the swiss chard or with steamed farro or riced cauliflower. Plate chosen side, top with swiss chard and then finish with lamb shank either on or off of the bone.
This goes very well with an old world style dry red wine, perhaps a French Merlot or a dry Syrah.
Swiss chard has been one of those vegetables that I don’t always enjoy because I taste a lot of bitterness. This swiss chard was one of the richest, most flavorful that I’ve ever had. The acid from the tomatoes and luxurious fat from the lamb shanks give it an incredible flavor.
Caution not to add more liquid than recipe calls for, this will yield a more stew like finished product.
If you opt out of lamb, pork shoulder would work excellently with this recipe. Alternatively, you could braise chicken thighs and reduce the cooking time by half or more, keeping the same cooking times for the swiss chard ribs and leaves.