Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Up until a few years ago, my idea of a slow cooker was bland, mushy, overcooked food. I don't know quite where the misconception came from. My mom never had a slow cooker when we were growing up so I had never actually had food made in one. Nevertheless, when it came time to create a wedding registry, I put one on the list: an inexpensive model because I figured I wouldn't use it much. My how the times change. My basic Crock Pot is a true workhorse and has become one of my favorite kitchen tools. I've just added a 4th slow cooker cookbook to my collection and these lamb shanks are the first thing I tried.
The book - The New Slow Cooker: Fresh Recipes for the Modern Cook - recognizes that slow cooked food can be a bit lacking in texture. But it drives home how much flavor it can have if done right. Plus, each recipe has some sort of fresh addition, something added at the end that freshens everything up and adds more texture. In this recipe it's the peppers and feta. Others add a salsa or salad.
As my maternity leave nears an end, I love my slow cooker even more. I can throw a meal into it while my baby sleeps so that I can play with her while she's awake. Once I'm back at work, I'll be able to have meals ready so I can spend every precious minute with her when I get home in the evenings. Few other kitchen tools can give me that! So, please, if you have a favorite slow cooker recipe, share it. I'll need plenty as my daughter grows.
Braised Lamb Shanks with Sweet Peppers and Feta
adapted from The New Slow Cooker: Fresh Recipes for the Modern Cook
4 lamb shanks, about 1 lb. each trimmed of fat
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. dry oregano
1 tsp. cumin
3/4 cup beef stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Season the lamb shanks generously all over with salt and pepper. In a large heave frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, working batches if necessary, sear the shanks and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
Pour off most of the fat from the pan and return it to medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, oregano and cumin and saute until the vegetables are golden, 6-8 minutes. Pour in the stock and wine and stir to dislodge any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Transfer the contents of the pan to the slow cooker and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Place the shanks on top. Cover and cook on the low setting for 7 hours, basting once or twice with the braising liquid if possible.
Carefully transfer the shanks to a platter and cover to keep warm. Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan. Let stand a few minutes then skim away the fat with a large spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the peppers and saute until just beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Divide the shanks among plates and drizzle with the braising liquid. Top with some of the peppers and then sprinkle the feta over the top and serve immediately.