Lamb Shanks with Syrah, Blueberry and Bleu Cheese Reduction
Today while at the market to purchase some beef short ribs for another recipe I noticed that my butcher had lamb shanks at a very good price. I got two mammoth shanks for just $2.50 (American). Whether or not I should buy them was a foregone conclusion. What to do with them was another matter all together.
Having a good bit of Irish blood in me the thought to make a hearty stew was there as was the desire to per chance experiment with Moroccan flavors. I shrugged, tossed the package into the basket, and figured I would pan sear that bridge when I came to it.
Once home, my cooking free-for-all started by satisfying my sister’s request of preparing one of those box meals. I opened all cans and pouches. I added the requisite water and let it simmer. How was it? I don’t know I had beef short ribs and lamb shanks to tend too. I began the long (and definitely worth it) process of the soul food staple braised beef short ribs. Once the braise was ready for several hours of slow love I turned my attention to the lamb.
As I began heating my cast iron skillet I still was not completely sure what I was going to make. The stew was out as the Dutch Oven was busy reducing the short ribs to tender deliciousness. I had all but decided to prepare them much as I would a good cut of T-bone – butter and olive oil in the pan and Montreal Steak Seasoning rubbed into the now room temperature cuts.
Footnote: allowing your proteins (meat) to come to room temperature before cooking will insure a more thorough cooking process and offer a more tender product.
Once the shanks hit the hot pan the house was filled an amazing aroma. I seasoned the other side of the shanks and left them alone to properly caramelize before turning. As I turned the shanks I realized that they were so thick that I may need to finish them in the oven to achieve a rosy medium-rare interior. As I placed the pan into the oven (this is but one benefit of the iron skillet) it occurred to me that a cup or so of the Syrah I had left over from the short ribs recipe might help insure tenderness and add depth of flavor. I had decided that I was going to do a reduction sauce when the shanks were ready so why not?
So far nothing too unconventional right? Except the meat. Just what are lamb shanks you may be asking. Here is what the web site mealsforyou.com has to say about them:
Lamb shank is cut from the arm of shoulder, contains leg bone and part of round shoulder bone, and is covered by a thin layer of fat and fell (a thin, paper-like covering). Lamb shank is usually prepared by braising or by cooking in liquid.
Ten minutes in a 350 degree oven did the trick. I removed the shanks to a plate and deglazed the pan with a little more Syrah. I don’t know why but I began wondering how good the sauce might be with some blueberries for sweetness and some blue cheese for pungency. If only I had some blueberries. On a whim I checked the freezer and found about half a cup of frozen organic blueberries so I tossed them into the reduction sauce that had just started to simmer. Once the sauce had cooked down for about six minutes I pulled the pan off the heat and finished it with about two tablespoons of butter and a few ounces of bleu cheese crumbles.
Remember: red wine is the best source of the ultra powerful phytoalexin resveratrol which is unsurpassed for fighting the effects of aging and cardiovascular disease. Resveratrol from wine comes with none of the dangers of those synthetic resveratrol supplements. The only side effects from wine are a cozy desire to lounge and an inclination towards romanticism.
The resulting meal which had cost less than five bucks was fantastic! It was the kind of entree you would shell out a small fortune for at the French Laundry. Blueberries and bleu cheese are a common pairing to top a steak. I have finished many a fillet with that combination but never cooked into a reduction sauce or with lamb. How French of me.
At Christmas I had the pleasure of accompanying my brother to Ruth’s Chris’ where I dined on New Zealand venison chops with a blackberry reduction. For weeks I raved to friends and family about the dish. With all due respect to Chef George, I call your blackberry venison and raise you Lamb Shanks with Syrah, Blueberry, and Bleu Cheese Reduction.
2 6-8 ounce lamb shanks
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup medium bodied red wine
salt and pepper to taste (I used Montreal Steak Seasoning)
Preheat oven to 350. Heat an iron skillet to medium high. Add the oil and butter and when th butter stops foaming add the seasoned shanks. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes or until a nice brown crust appears on one side. Turn and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes. Add the wine, then place pan in the oven for 10 minutes for medium rare, 15 for medium. When done remove the shanks to a plate and return pan to burner, returning to medium high heat.
Reduction Sauce –
1 cup medium bodied red wine (Syrah/Shirraz)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
4 ounces bleu cheese crumbles
Deglaze the pan with the cup of wine and bring to a simmer. Add the blueberries and allow sauce to reduce by one half. Remove from the heat and add the butter allowing it to melt. Add the bleu cheese then pour over the shanks. Mmm good. A dish suitable for an Iron Chef.
Now a full stomach and half bottle of wine later my short ribs are done. Back to the kitchen!