De-virginizing my Le Creuset

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and what better way to do it than with an Apricot Lamb Tagine?

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lamb shanks (or 2 lb lamb shoulder)
  • 1/4 cup flour (optional)
  • 1 med yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced in coins
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 can chickpeas (sans sodium)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbs tumeric
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves, whole
  • salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. place spices in a blender (go magic bullet!) and blast it to oblivion.
  2. rub down shanks with as much of the spices you need. Salt generously. Typically I let the meat sit out for 30 minutes or so, to let it come to room temperature. Otherwise you’ll get uneven cooking.
  3. preheat oven to ~250F
  4. heat dutch oven on med-high heat. (optional: dredge shanks in thin coat of flour.) add oil and let it come to a shimmer. sear shanks, one at a time (if pot is too small) until brown on each side, 5 min each. thongs are your friend. Don’t crowd, as this will steam and not sear your meat. 
  5. remove shanks. add onions and carrots to pan and saute until soft – 3min, scraping off all the fatty goodness stuck to the sides of the pot. add a bit of broth to de-glaze. Salt generously.
  6. add tomatoes, enough stock to completely submerge veggies, and rest of the seasoning. bring to a boil then reduced to simmer.
  7. place shanks over veggies and spoon stock over it. top off stock to a level half way up the shanks. cover and pop it in the oven. the key to braising is long time at low heat! there shouldn’t be an audible bubbling.  sIMMER. bubbles should surface periodically, not constantly. each hour or two, flip shanks over to submerge the previously exposed side, spooning stock over before you re-cover. Do a taste test and salt again if needed.  Braise for 3+ hours. Add apricots and chickpeas and continue to braise until cooked through. (30-45 minutes or so)
  8. Remove from oven, let it cool, and stick it in the fridge over night. spoon off fat the next morning and heat over medium low heat on the stove to warm it up. It WILL taste better the next day. I promise.

yum yum yum. we ate it with chinese 抓餅, a flaky doughy flat bread –>

notes:

add apricots towards the end! those little f-ers disintegrate like none other.

i actually braised 2 hours stove top, then 3 hours oven. way too hard to control the level of heat via stove top, and the part of the shank that was exposed to air dried out. luckily this was salvageable, as 1 hour in the oven with the dried part submerged remedied this quite nicely. next time i braise ONLY in the oven at low heat. (225? 5 hours?) more even cooking, less turning required. and turning/stirring = having to remove the lid =lose moisture.

the way i broke up the time (2 hours, then refrigerate, then 3 hours, etc) is completely arbitrary. does not matter. as  long as the damn thing cooks. under cooking = tough. don’t be afraid of cooking it a little longer. sounds counter intuitive, i know.

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