Happy New Year! I’m really stoked it’s 2019. Now I can say “New Year-New Me” over and over. It’s never gets old. Say it with me: “New Year-New Me.” Feels awesome!
My first New Year-New Me project is to reinvent myself, from a mild-mannered culinary instructor into an old-school, hard-core restaurateur. I’m already immersed in changing my work habits, learning to compartmentalize tasks, organizing lists and multitasking like a corporate beast. It’s quite an adventure and it’s just the beginning of my New Year-New Me plans. Once I’ve begun to find the comfort zone within my new daily routines, the real work begins. What work? I mean to change the concept and theme of the current location. Rather exciting stuff indeed. I’ll keep y’all informed as I get closer to unveiling the new concept, but for now, I want to have another little talk about lamb.
In my opinion, lamb is lamb-o-licious but sadly underappreciated in these here parts. In the 904, the protein of choice tends to be chicken. That’s OK, but man cannot live by chicken alone. Some variety in your protein preference is a good thing. Everyone loves a vacation from work, so how about a vacation from chicken? Yes, let’s go somewhere new this trip.
Next stop: Downtown LAMBVILLE, official home of tasty adventures!
Right now, I’m flipping through the pages of The National Association of Meat Packers meat buyers’ guide. Yes, I know you’re jealous. Who doesn’t love to spend time with a nice, light read now and again? I’m reading that lamb is broken down into five primal cuts: shoulder, rack, loin, leg and shank/breast. Each of these are then broken down into smaller cuts and portions, and as each new piece is created, it gets a new name. For example, the rack can be fabricated into lamb chops, the shoulder can become chops, a boneless shoulder roast or ground lamb.
As far as eat-ability, the more tender cuts are carved from the rack and loin, and chewier, more intensely flavored cuts from the shoulder, leg, breast and the fantastically delicious shank. The shank, the toughest section, is best prepared as a braise, like this unbelievable yogurt braise.
Chef Bill’s YOGURT BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
• 3 oz. canola oil
• 3 cups sliced almonds
• 6 cardamom pods
• 1 Tbsp. fenugreek
• 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
• 2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 2 star anise pods
• 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
• 3 oz. orange juice
• 4 Tbsp. honey
• 3 onions, medium dice
• 10 garlic cloves
• 3 Tbsp. ginger, grated
• 1/4 cup tomato paste
• 40 oz. plain yogurt
• 2 lager beers
• 2 pint chicken broth
• 12 lamb shanks
• 1 bunch cilantro
• 3 oz. white wine
• Seasoned flour as needed
1. Toast the first 8 spices. Process in blender. Add onion, garlic, ginger and 1 cup broth. Process until it’s slightly coarse.
2. Dredge lamb shanks in seasoned flour, brown on all sides. Remove from pan, wipe away excess oil.
3. Toast tomato paste in pan, add white wine, yogurt, beer and remaining broth.
4. Add spice/vegetable mixture, return lamb shanks to pan.
5. Bring to a simmer, cover with foil, put in a 325°F oven for 2 to 3 hours or until lamb is tender.
6. Remove lamb, degrease sauce, add orange juice and reduce to sauce consistency.
7. Adjust seasoning, pour over lamb shanks.
Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at email@example.com, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!