Archive for May 21st, 2011

May 21, 2011

Greek for Dinner: Lamb Shank Stifado + Gigandes Plaki

or “Greek Lamb Shanks + Gigante Beans.”

I claim no authenticity. I just wanted some tomato-y lamb shanks and butter beans tonight and this is what I ended up with. I believe a true stifado should include pearl onions, vinegar, and red wine. To avoid buying more ingredients than I had room for in my pantry, I used sweet yellow onions instead of pearl, and white wine instead of red wine and vinegar. I believe white wines are a tad more acidic than red, so I thought I could get away with leaving out the vinegar. And since I was using a lighter, white wine, I used a heavier/more robust beef broth instead of chicken.


  • 3 medium lamb shanks (~ 2 lb)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 med sweet yellow onion (pearl, if you have them)
  • 1 stalk celery (~30% amount of onions.)
  • several small cloves of garlic, halved
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 1-2 tsp greek oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch mint
  • ~1 cup beef broth
  • ~1/2 cup dry, crisp white wine
  • black pepper (whole kernel if possible.)
  • olive oil
  • lemon pepper (I forgot to buy lemons at the store…if you have them, use zest)

You will use your typical braising method for this recipe: (preheat your oven to 300F)

  1. Prep meat: Cut about 5 slits into the lamb shank between the muscle bundles and stuff halved garlic cloves in. Salt and (lemon) pepper generously.
  2. Brown meat: Heat olive oil in 5qt dutch oven. Sear meat on each side until evenly brown all over. Remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Saute aromatics: In remaining oil, saute minced onions and celery ~3 min or until just soft. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. ~5 more min or until onions are translucent and just browned. Salt and add half the spices.
  4. Deglaze: Add tomatoes + juice and deglaze bottom of pot.
  5. Reduce: Add beef broth and wine. Reduce until ~50% original volume of liquid is left. Add rest of the spices.
  6. Reintroduce Meat: Preheat oven to 300F. Return shanks into pot, distributing evenly. Spoon onion mixture and sauce over tops, cover, and pop in oven for 2.5+ hours. Remove from oven to flip shanks over at the 1 hour and 2 hour mark. Serve immediately or:
  7. Optional: Flip shanks once more, then put immediately into fridge over night. The next day, spoon off fat layer, gently reheat over stove, and serve. OK. This is not really optional. Make it ahead! Tastes better. I promise.

Braising is hands down, my favorite cooking methodology to date. (:

Yea, it’s not too pretty. but it taste good! I love how the garlic just melts away into the soup and how the nice tang of the tomatoes really balances with the dark earthy flavors of lamb. You really can’t go wrong with braising lamb.

Now on to the beans.


A note on beans:
1 lb dry yields ~ 7 cups cooked or ~ 4 fifteen oz cans
(2 cups/can). Not exact, but you can get away with this conversion.

Recipe from Serious Eats.

  • 1 pound Greek gigantes (giant) beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups raw ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or use canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons tomato concentrate, or tomato extract, or sun-dried tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs, minced (dill is preferred by Greeks, but you could also use un-Greek basil, or a tablespoon of mint and a tablespoon of thyme)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Put the beans in a large saucepan with water to cover to a depth of about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer, cover the pan, and simmer very gently for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the beans are starting to soften but not yet ready to eat. Periodically, skim off any foam that rises to the top. When the beans are ready, remove from the heat but do not drain.
  2. Set the oven at 325 degrees. Using 3 tablespoons of the oil, cook the onions in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and starting to brown.
  3. Using 3 tablespoons of the oil, cook the onions in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and starting to brown.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the hot beans from the saucepan to an oven dish, preferably a bean pot–a terra cotta or ceramic dish that is taller than it is wide (lacking such a pot, you could also use an ordinary casserole or souffle dish, but a bean pot is preferable). Stir in the remaining olive oil, the onions, and the chopped or crushed tomatoes. Dissolve the honey and tomato concentrate in about 1 cup of the hot bean water and add to the beans, mixing carefully and tucking the bay leaves in with the beans. There should be just enough liquid in the pot to barely cover the beans–add a little more if necessary, but make sure it is boiling hot. Cover the pot securely with aluminum foil (and the pot lid if available), transfer to the preheated oven, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Check the beans from time to time and add a little more boiling bean liquid or plain water if necessary.
  5. Remove the bean pot from the oven. The beans should be meltingly tender at this point. Stir in the fresh herbs and the vinegar, along with salt and pepper. Return the bean pot, uncovered, to the oven and let the beans bake for another 15 minutes to absorb all the flavors.

K. I’ll be honest. I f*(^ed this one up the first time around. I’m not too keen on the idea of cooked red onions, but I figured “what the hell do I know about Greek cooking” so I stuck with the recipe. They do, in fact, turn into an ugly shade of purple when cooked and I don’t feel they impart any particular flavor that would warrant its use in future cooking endeavors. Red onions will stay raw in my kitchen here on out. For some reason the recipe following ended there. I inadvertently used way too much dill. So don’t do that either. Anyway, I didn’t have time to remake my beans. But I’ll give this recipe another shot later. And this time I’ll follow it. ):