Friday, March 1, 2013

Lamb Osso Bucco from Jen's Gone Paleo

When I first started this blog, the picture I had in my mind was my getting recipe requests from readers and my cooking them.  While I'm always asking for requests, it wasn't until I recently added a cool widget to collect recipe requests that I've actually received one.  How exciting!  Sarah H. asked that I review the Lamb Osso Bucco with Wild Porcini and Fennel recipe from Jen's Gone Paleo.  What an awesome suggestion!  She says that she's been curious to see how it turns out.  Well, let's find out!

First, I gathered my ingredients.  I turned my oven on to 400 degrees to pre-heat. 

I decided to begin with washing the Swiss chard.  I stripped the stems from the chard and let the leaves soak in cold water in my salad spinner for a bit to let any sand/dirt fall to the bottom after giving it a few good swishes around in the water.  

The recipe calls for bacon fat or other paleo oil.  If this wasn't my first time making this recipe, I'd just use coconut oil, but as bacon fat adds flavor, I decided to render some bacon fat.  I only had two pieces of bacon, but figured I could get at least 2-3 tablespoons of oil out of them.  

While the bacon was frying, I started prepping the remaining vegetables.  I "thinly sliced" an onion and peeled and sliced some carrots.  The recipe calls for 4-6 carrots.  The carrots I had were mostly rather short and skinny.  I estimated that 7 of the skinny short carrots plus 3 short fat carrots would equal the volume of 4-6 average sized carrots.  I tried cutting them on the diagonal, but deemed myself a failure at it.  

When the bacon appeared to have given up all of its fat, I carefully poured it into my measuring spoon from the pan over the dutch oven I was going to use for cooking.  The instructions say to use a "large dutch oven."  My only dutch oven is 5 1/2 quarts.  I hope it will do.   I really dislike it when recipes use descriptors such as large or small for pots/pans when it would be just as easy to be specific as to the size pot/pan the recipe author used so you could pick the pan that you have that best matches that.  End of pot/pan size rant, and on with the recipe.  The bacon had given up almost exactly 2 tablespoons of fat.  

I turned my burner on to medium-high.  Next, I prepared to season the lamb shanks.  I measured out my sea salt and ground fennel into a small bowl and mixed them until combined (I don't have the same size specificity issue with describing bowls as small or large).  

I then sprinkled the lamb with the salt/fennel mixture.  The next time I do this, I will take my own advice and use a rimmed dish/sheet pan of some kind to contain the extra spice.  

When my pot was heated, I added the shanks to brown them on all sides.  While the lamb browned, I drained and dried the Swiss chard in my salad spinner.

After the meat was browned, I put it on a plate and wiped out the pan.  As I was out of bacon fat, I added a tablespoon of coconut oil to the pot.  Once the oil was melted, I added the carrots, onion and minced garlic to the pot.

I then added the porcini salt and ground fennel to the pan and gave everything a good stir.  

While the onions, carrots and garlic softened and browned, I chopped up some of the Swiss chard and put "two large handfuls" into a bowl.  Every one's hands are different.  For the sake of knowing, my "two large handfuls" ended up being 4 3/4 ounces.  

When the vegetables were softened and started to brown, I added the tomato paste to the pot.  After mixing in the paste, I let the vegetables brown for another 5 minutes.  I turned down the temperature of my burner to medium as it seemed the pot was getting a little too hot.
After five more minutes browning

Next, I added the can of diced tomatoes and the chard to the dutch oven.

I gave the contents of the pot a good stir and then added then added the lamb shanks.


Finally, I put the lid on and put the dutch oven in the oven.  

The recipe says to check the lamb every 45 minutes for 2.5 to 3 hours.  After the first 45 minutes, the vegetables had released fair amount of liquid and things looked like they were progressing well.

The lamb after 45 minutes in the oven.
I set the timer for another 45 minutes and again, checked the pot.  The liquid had reduced.
The shanks after 1 hour 30 minutes.
The recipe instruction says to "add more water" if "the liquid has reduced too much."  That implies that you've added water at some point before, but the recipe didn't call for any water before this point.  It doesn't say how much water to add.  I didn't want the vegetables dry out and there was still a fair amount of cooking time left, so I decided to add 1/2 cup of water.  I also turned the shanks over, per the recipe instructions.  

The shanks turned and 1/2 cup of water added.  
I set the timer for yet another 45 minutes.  When the timer went off, here is what I had:

The shanks after  2 hours and 15 minutes.
The liquid had again reduced, so I added another 1/2 cup of water to the pot.  Because my lamb shanks were not a full 2 pounds, I only added an additional 30 minutes to the timer.  During that time, I prepared the garnishes:  parsley and lemon zest.  The recipe doesn't specify what sort of parsley, so I used flat leaf.  I used my microplane zester/grater to remove the zest from the lemon.  

At the 2 hour 45 minute mark, I again checked the lamb.  The recipe says the lamb  should be incredibly tender and flavorful when done.  I didn't want to dismantle these pretty shanks to determine doneness.  According to this website lamb shanks are done at an internal temperature of 160 degrees.  I used my instant read thermometer on the thick part of the shank and it well exceeded 160 degrees.  I decided it must be done.  
The finished dish after roasting for 2 hours 45 minutes.    
Here are pictures of both shanks plated with garnish.  The were both so pretty, I couldn't just post one.  

Accessibility & Cost of Ingredients:  I purchased my lamb shanks at Whole Foods for $6.99/lb.  I picked two of the largest ones they had and the total weight was 1.7 pounds.  The only other time I've made a lamb recipe, it was a shank recipe and I purchased lamb shanks at my "big box" grocery store about a year ago.  They came in a shrink wrapped package.  I must say that the shanks I purchased from Whole Foods and the "big box" store looked completely different.  After cooking, they looked similar, but not before.  I know the quality of the shanks I purchased at Whole Foods is far better.  The price I paid for the one's from the "big box" store wasn't really any cheaper from what I remember.

The recipe uses Williams Sonoma blend Wild Porcini Mushroom Sea Salt.  Luckily there is a Williams Sonoma store in town and I happened to have received a 15% off coupon in my email box the day before I got the recipe suggestion.  The blend costs $14.95.  This is a little pricey.  She says that you can use a "combo of Ground Dried Porcini Mushrooms and Sea Salt or just use 2 tsp. Sea Salt."  I commented on the original recipe to see what measures of dried mushrooms and sea salt she used, but she hasn't replied.  In case you're curious, I checked at Whole Foods and about an ounce package of dried porcini mushrooms cost $6.99.  I found a recipe for porcini salt and have reviewed it at the end of this post.  

Preparation & Cooking Time:  It took me 45 minutes from start to putting the dutch oven in the oven.

I roasted the lamb for a total of 2 hours 45 minutes.  I kept the stopwatch going from the very beginning to capture a total time that would include my stopping the cooking to check the dish.  My total preparation and cooking time was 3 hours 34 minutes and 50 seconds.  

Clean Up:  With the exception of my knife, dutch oven, and wooden spoon everything went into the dish washer.  I soaked my dutch oven for a few hours but it still took a substantial amount of elbow grease and bar keeper's friend to get it clean.  
Does pot scrubbing count as exercise?
The Paleo Review:  Thumbs Up!   To be honest, this is only the second time I've had lamb.  Well, lamb in a recognizable cut, I don't know that gyro mystery meat counts.  I think the typical go to descriptor for lamb is that its gamey in comparison with beef.  I think lamb tastes simply different from beef.  This dish had a deep meaty earthy flavor.  It was juicy and so tender it fell off the bone.    My dinner guest said that it was "really good," and "light for a lamb dish."  I have to agree that the the dish in general is light.  I wish there were more vegetables.  Really I should have prepared another side dish to have a full meal.  The next time I make this I'm going to take a chance and double the vegetables.  There's only one tablespoon of the wild porcini blend in the recipe and really I don't know if it makes a discernible difference in the flavor of the final dish. 

Bonus review:  Porcini Salt

As noted above, if you cannot get your hands on the Williams Sonoma Wild Porcini Mushroom Salt or its too pricey for your budget, you can make your own blend.  I found this recipe for a porcini salt from a blog called The Little Things and decided to give it a try.

After gathering my ingredients, I pulled out my mini-chopper.

I decided to use kosher salt instead of sea salt.  I only had one package of dried mushrooms, so I made half batch of the recipe.

I added the mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the mini-chopper.

I put the lid on and processed the mushrooms until it was ground fine and had an even consistency.

Be prepared for your chopper to kick up some mushroom dust while you're processing.

I used a paper towel and a spice funnel to fill a spice jar with the porcini salt for storage.  

Accessibility & Cost of Ingredients:  I purchased the dried mushrooms at Whole Foods for $6.99 for a package.  I haven't looked for dried mushrooms at my "big box" grocery store.  The next time I'm there I'll check.  

Preparation Time:  It took me less than 5 minutes to prepare this recipe.  

Clean up:  Minimal.  My mini-chopper components went into the dishwasher. 

The Paleo Review:  Thumbs up!  Of course, I've not tested it in the Osso Bucco, but this is a versatile blend that you can use on anything from vegetables to beef.  To give this blend a test run, I made up a little recipe that I'll call Skillet Porcini Chicken.  The blend added a nice earthy flavor to the chicken and vegetables and wasn't overly salty.  I'm glad to have this new blend in my spice rack.       

I love Nom Nom Paleo and she has a Magic Mushroom Powder recipe that is only available on her ipad app which she has described "mixture of dried porcini mushroom powder, salt, and herbs."  You could use this  blend as a stop gap for that flavor if you don't have an ipad, like me, or until she releases that gem of a recipe more widely and/or in other formats.