March 20, 2011

Braised Lamb Shanks with Parsnip Purée and Beet Salad

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As we wrote yesterday, on Saturday we made our way down to the Union Square farmer's market and picked up some fresh vegetables and free range meat to make our meals for the weekend. We didn't go with a particular recipe in mind, we just saw what was available and then tried to figure out what would work together. The parsnips and golden beets seemed like a great place to start. 

Our primary ingredients for the first meal were lamb shank, beets, parsnip, cioppino onion, and bianca cheese. We decided we would braise the lamb shank, make a beet salad for the side, and use the parsnip to make a purée upon which we would set the shank. 

No plan huh? Let's see how this turns out...
Making the Dish
What You'll Need

lamb shanks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons fresh dill
1 diced cioppino onion
3 cloves garlic
3 cups white wine
dash salt and pepper

For beet salad:
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons bianca cheese
1 teaspoon fresh dill
dash salt and pepper

For parsnip purée:
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash salt and pepper
2 tablespoons half and half
2 tablespoons bianca cheese

We started with braising the shanks because we figured that would take the longest. Recipes we had seen for braising recommended about 1.5 hours of cooking for the shanks. We seasoned the shanks with salt and pepper and then seared them all on sides in a large deep pan with hot olive oil. 

Searing the lamb shanks to a nice golden brown.
We did this until it was golden brown on all sides, then we took it out from the heat. 

A delicious golden brown lamb shank. Now to braise it...
For the braise, we took what we had from the farmer's market and what we had on hand and tried to come up with flavors that complemented one another and the lamb. We used the cioppino onion and garlic, diced finely, as well as a tablespoon of tomato paste, white wine, and chopped fresh dill. 

Sautéing the onions and garlic with dill. 
We added the onion and garlic into the oil and let it sauté until soft. Once soft, we added the tablespoon of tomato paste and let it toast up slightly, then mixed it all together and let the flavors marry nicely. Then we added in our white wine and dill, and mixed it all together. 

Adding the wine to the veggies and tomato paste.
Finally, we zested a lemon into the mixture and added in the juice of half of it. 

Zesting the lemon on the microplane into the mix. 
We returned the shanks to the pot so that they were nestled nicely into the liquid, brought it to a boil, and then covered and reduced the heat to a simmer. We let that simmer for 1.5 hours. 

Braised lamb shanks, about one hour in, meat is already getting tender. 
Then we roasted our beets for the salad. We put the beets whole onto a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzled olive oil over them and a sprinkled on some salt. We wrapped the sheet up, and then put it in an oven for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. 

Drizzling the beets with olive oil. 
While the beets were cooking, we peeled our parsnip and then sliced it into half inch slices. Towards the larger end of the parsnip, the core becomes a bit thick and tough, so we sliced around it and only used the edges. We threw these into a mixing bowl, added a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt and pepper, and then tossed it all together until the parsnips were coated. Then we spread these out over a baking dish and added them to the oven as well. 

Seasoned parsnips ready for baking. 
We spent a little time playing with Herbie while everything was cooking, and then it was time to take out the parsnips after about 20 minutes. 

See that ribbon? I want you to pick it up and play with me. 
We tested them to make sure they were nice and soft, and then added them to the food processor. 

Parsnip ingredients, ready to be puréed.

We also added to the food processor about 2 tablespoons of the bianca cheese, 2 tablespoons of half and half, and a touch of the fresh dill. We blended this all together until it was a nice purée, and then we moved on to the beets.

Peeling the skin off a golden beet. 

After we removed the beets from the oven, we had to peel them. We used a paper towel to rub them down, with the grain, and the skin came right off. The paper towel gives you a bit more friction as well as helps handle the heat.

Seasoning the beet salad with dill, salt, and pepper. 

We sliced the beets up and then chopped them into small cubes, and added them all to a mixing bowl. We added two tablespoons of olive oil to the mix, as well as some salt, pepper, and fresh dill, and mixed it together until everything was coated. The last thing we did was add our bianca cheese to the mix, and mix it all together. This made the beets turn a very bright pink... not necessarily the most appealing color. It was delicious, but next time we might hold off on adding the cheese, or only add it to the top without mixing, so as to avoid the color.

Adding the bianca cheese to the beet salad. 

Finally it was time to take out the lamb shanks. The meat had receded down the bone and was fall off the bone tender, so we removed it from the braise and let it rest for a few moments while we plated the dishes.

Plating the braised lamb shank onto the parsnip purée. 

We added a bed of parsnip purée to one side of the plate, set the lamb shank on top of that, and then added the beet salad to the side. We drizzled it all with a touch of olive oil, and then we were ready to eat.

The Result

We were very happy with the way the lamb came out. It was tender, juicy, flavorful, and just extremely delicious. The parsnip purée with the cheese and dill added into it was sweet and savory, and was a very nice complement to the meat.

The beet salad, despite its strange color, was also delicious. The flavors in the beets were rich and vibrant, and the cool sweet cheese balanced it out very well.

All the flavors individually were very good, but it's unclear whether or not they all worked together perfectly - despite the ubiquity of the dill, the beets didn't necessarily complement the parsnip and the lamb as well as say, a sweet potato would have. That said, everything was really delicious. The braised lamb and the parsnip purée we'll definitely be returning to. And the beet salad is definitely a great idea if you have beets on hand, although we'd recommend leaving out the cheese (or adding it on top rather than mixing it in) so that the color isn't so weird.

Give it a try and let us know what you think of it!

Braised Lamb Shanks with Parsnip Purée and Beet Salad

Written by:

A nicely braised lamb shank complimented by fresh seasonal vegetables.

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:

(Serves: 2)

2 lamb shanks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons fresh dill
1 diced cioppino onion
3 cloves garlic
3 cups white wine
dash salt and pepper

For beet salad:
4 beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons bianca cheese
1 teaspoon fresh dill
dash salt and pepper

For parsnip purée:
1 parsnip
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash salt and pepper
2 tablespoons half and half
2 tablespoons bianca cheese


  1. Wow, you cat Herbie is so cute! I have a ginger tabby cat called Merlin :-)

  2. I love your blog...delicious !!! Congrats on being named a Blogger Blog of Note. Herbie is gorgeous and so is your photography !

  3. Thanks! We really appreciate it, and Herbie is blushing :)


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