Back in the days of braising weather, the routine would be that I did the meat braising before Emily arrived an hour or so before serving time. Then Emily prepped and made the side dish, while I made drinks for us to sip on while cooking. For the evening of lamb shanks 2.0, Emily came over to braise with me which left us about two hours with nothing to do while the lamb simmered away. Together with roommate Alex we decided to grab a few drinks at The Passenger, Alex and my favorite bar of all time and, conveniently enough, the bar that is closest to our apartment. We set the stove top to low, prayed that the apartment wouldn’t blow up while we were away, and made the early evening trek to the Passenger.
I took advantage of the light crowd and the early drinking hour and ordered a Corpse Reviver #2, a tart gin based drink with equal parts cointreau, lillet blanc, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe. After the first round of drinks, the three of us felt a little hungry so we asked for an order of beef jerky with our second round. I love gin and all but my heart belongs to whiskey so I asked for a manhattan made with Jefferson’s Rye. Beef jerky and a manhattan, a pairing after my own heart.
After two rounds, we called it quits and headed back to the apartment to finish making our meal. We were happy to find the apartment just as we left it, except it smelled even more aromatic from the braising lamb shanks. Alex and Emily got to work making stir-fried baby bok choy with shitake mushrooms while I made fried rice to soak up the sauce of the lamb shanks. Soon enough, we were ready to plow into our meals. Our efforts, both sober and not as sober, produced one of the best Sunday dinners of 2012 to date.
Twice-Cooked Five-Spice Lamb with Red Chiles (from Bon Appetit)
6 large meaty lamb shanks (about 7 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons plus 6 cups water, divided
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup black vinegar (balsamic vinegar can be substituted)
1 4-ounce piece fresh ginger, peeled, sliced (about 2/3 cup)
12 whole star anise
8 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
4 2-inch-long small dried red chiles
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add lamb; reduce heat to medium and boil gently for 15 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
Combine sugar and 6 tablespoons water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until caramel is deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 7 minutes, depending on pan. Remove from heat; add 3 cups water, soy sauce, and black vinegar to caramel; stir over medium heat to dissolve any caramel bits. Transfer caramel mixture to very large wide pot. Add remaining 3 cups water, ginger, star anise, garlic chiles, and five-spice powder, then lamb shanks. Bring to boil (liquid will not cover shanks completely). Reduce heat to medium-low, cover tightly, and simmer until lamb is very tender, turning occasionally, about 3 hours.
Serve lamb shanks on individual plates with any rice or side vegetables. Sprinkle green onions over and serve.