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A Bacon Contest? I’m in!

Lamb shank 1

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I’ve kind of got a love-hate relationship with Whole Foods. I loathe their right wing Libertarian politics and the causes they support. But I do admit that it’s the best place local – literally a few blocks from my house – to get fresh, farm-raised meat. So when I saw they were having a bacon-recipe contest, I thought to myself – “Hey, I can cook with bacon, and relieve Whole Foods of a year’s worth of free bacon!” This is win-win. So I’m going to enter “Beer-and-bacon-braised Lamb Shanks.” Since I used a lot of the flavors and techniques I learned from your book, I thought I’d first record it here.

Ingredients:

2 lamb shanks, trimmed of fat

1 yellow onion, chopped fine

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 cup of dark, sweet beer

4 slices of streaky bacon

1/4 lb of chicken livers

2 carrots, peeled, chopped into 2″ chunks or so

2 sprigs of rosemary

1 bay leaf

2-4 cups of lamb stock

1/2 cup of cream

Procedure.

Step one, make sure your assistant chef is in place to observe all safety and hygiene procedures:
New assistant chef

Pre-heat the oven to 300F. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a cold dutch oven, line the bottom with the bacon. Turn on medium-low heat and allow the bacon to cook until the fat renders out mostly.

Lamb shank 10
When the bacon is cooked, set it aside on some paper towels. Pour out all but a tablespoon or so of the bacon grease, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat up to high, when the grease shimmers and just before the it starts to smoke, put in the shanks to brown. A couple of minutes on each side, as well as the joint, to get it nice and brown all around.

Lamb shank 9
Lamb shank 8

Set the shanks aside – not with the bacon, so you can catch the juices without them being soaked up by the paper towel. Deglaze the pan with the beer. Scrape, scrape scrape up that delicious brown stuff with a wooden spoon! Let the beer come to a simmer.
Put the onions in, and cook them at medium-high heat until they soften just a bit. Then put in the carrots and garlic, cook all until it starts to caramelize – probably something like 5-7 minutes. Put in the chicken livers and let them brown up a bit, just a minute or two.

Lamb shank 7
Put in the lamb stock. I made my own, a dark lamb stock that did a lot to add flavor. Beef stock will do, if that’s what you’ve got, so long as it’s some kind of dark stock. If you’ve got some demi-glace stashed away somewhere, this would be a great time to put in a spoonful, too.

Lamb shank 6

Let the stock come to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Nestle the lamb shanks in, facing each other, like a yin-yang symbol. Experience the profound peace and harmony of lamb. Delicious, delicious lamb. Lamb is a symbol of peace, right? Crumble the bacon up and sprinkle it evenly across the top of the mix. Put in the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf.
Lamb shank 5

Cover the dutch oven,. and put it in the oven for about three hours – turning the shanks over half-way through.

 
Lamb shank 4

When it’s done, put the dutch oven back on the heat, and remove the shanks to a platter. Carefully – seriously, really, truly carefully – strain out the solids and put it in a food-processor, less the rosemary and bay leaf. Meanwhile, put the remaining liquid back on high heat and let it reduce until it’s sticky enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, and season to taste.

Lamb shank 3

Pour the cream in with the solids, and pulse the food processor until all the bits are a nice thick, creamy gravy. Taste it. Is it super chicken-livery? If so, pour out some of the solid. If not, pour the reduced liquid into the processor with the rest of the gravy, and pulse until incorporated.

Lamb shank 3

Let the shanks rest – probably the time its taken you to make the sauce is sufficient. Serve on a platter, drizzle the sauce over the shanks and set the rest aside for later use, which is to say, soaking up even more of it with the lamb and some nice fresh French bread.

So what do you think, Chef Bourdain? Bacony enough? I like the earthy-organ flavor of the livers with the sweetness of the ale in the simmer sauce. Next time I might try and coat the lamb with seasoned flour before browning it, for a proper fricassee method. But maybe that’s hopelessly old-fashioned? Fuck it, sometimes old-school is the best school!

Thanks for teaching me the techniques that got me here, I think it’s a pretty good dish.
Davy

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