Friday, September 18, 2009

Lamb Shanks with a Peruvian Touch

What's in your pantry? Mine is stocked with an eclectic array of products from all over the world, thanks to my endless ethnic market hopping. Well, recently I met Chef Ron Oliver of The Marine Room at a little place he knew of in Hillcrest that sells Peruvian foodstuff. I can't call Latin America Travel & Services a market. It isn't. But, the owners, Tomas and Nelly Centurion, have a little area in an ante room where they sell Peruvian food products. I'll write more about this later with some recipes from Chef Ron, but I did pick up some interesting products, including a jar of Panca pepper paste. And, I decided to try it with braised lamb shanks.

Panca pepper paste and Chimayo red chile powder

The panca peppers are a deep red, mild pepper grown in Peru. They have a lovely smoky tone to them, along with a nice fruitiness. Usually they're sold dry or, as what I found, in a paste, and are perfect for dishes like stews and sauces. They go well with fish, but also poultry and meat.

I also added some other unusual ingredients to the dish--cinnamon sticks, Chimayo red chile powder (a favorite smoky chile powder I discovered in Chimayo, New Mexico, near Santa Fe), fresh red chile pimentos I found at Specialty Produce, and artichoke hearts.

Red chile pimentos

These, with more of the usual fare for a braising created a thick, rich complex sauce for the lamb shanks, which did so well in the braising that the meat started falling off the bone.

Someday, we will have cooler weather in San Diego, although it doesn't feel like it right now. But in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my second helping of the shanks this evening and would recommend it as a dish to make next year for Rosh Hashanah or looking forward, for Chanukah.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Panca Pepper Paste and Artichokes

Serves 4

4 lamb shanks
2 tbl. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, with sliced cloves
4 carrots, sliced
1/2 bottle of full-bodied red wine (I used a Barolo)
1 cans of low-fat, low-sodium chicken stock
2 sticks cinnamon
4 tsp. Chimayo red chili powder
6 tbl. Panca pepper paste
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
4 red chile pimentos or 2 red bell peppers, cut into one-inch pieces
12 oz. bag of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to warmed heavy pot that can go in the oven, then add lamb shanks and brown on all sides.

Browned lamb shanks

Remove and set aside the lamb. Drain the pot of the fat, add a little more olive oil to the pot, and use a spoon to scrape the brown bits. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots. Saute until softened. Add the wine and bring to a simmer until it reduces to one-half the original amount.

2. Add the chicken stock, Chimayo red chili powder, Panca pepper paste, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and thyme to the pot. Return the lamb to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, periodically stirring the mixture and turning the shanks.

3. At 1 1/2 hours, add the pimentos and artichoke hearts. Return the covered pot to the oven for another hour. Remove when the lamb is tender. Put on the stove top and tilt the pot to remove any fat that's risen to the top. Bring the lamb shank sauce to a boil, uncovered until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and thyme stems.

Serve over rice or noodles or polenta/grits.

Braised lamb shanks and rice

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