It was the four of us (excuse me, the five of us…Phillip – the cutest baby ever – was in attendance) for dinner last night. The usual suspects: Annaka, Heather, Karen and…and a whole lotta good food. I went to The Local Butcher Shop to get what I have been craving a lot of lately (lamb, particularly lamb shanks to make falling-off-the-bone-lamb yumminess) and some calves liver to try a new pâté. “ICK! Gross!” You say? Organ meat can be a really great alternative to muscle meat, and is usually eaten in smaller quantities. It’s also actually really inexpensive to make pâté – a pound of organic chicken or calves liver at Whole Paycheck (eh-hem, I mean Whole Foods) can be no more than $5. But it is a taste that some of us have, and some of us don’t. Buffalo meat, anyone?
Liver is exceptionally nutrient-dense, being a key source of zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin A, copper, folate, riboflavin, selenium, protein, niacin, vitamin B6, panthothenic acid, and phosphorus, and a good source of iron. Although calf’s liver is also high in cholesterol and saturated fat (remember, the really bad fats are the trans or damaged fats!), its concentration of so many beneficial nutrients helps to counteract the cholesterol and fat. And cholesterol is not all bad. It depends on the type, and the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol. Ok, ok. Before I get too science-y on you, let’s move on to the food…and the recipe. My public is waiting (totally kidding. If I had a public, I would be stoked).
Annaka made a really good, well-flavored hummus with killer amounts of garlic and paprika (I think she may have thrown in some cumin seeds, whole, as well) with raw carrots and broccoli. She was also in charge of dessert and made gluten-free chocolate macaroons that turned out to amazing (and lucky for me she forgot her recipe at my house last night). Karen brought fixings for baked goat cheese in tomato sauce – super simple, super delectable and savory. And she made zucchini carpaccio with roasted almonds and Pecorino cheese, a specialty of one of Pacific Heights in SF most long standing restaurants, Jackson Fillmore (wanna guess where it is?). The writers of A Little Ymminess have a GREAT video showing how to make it. Super easy, using high quality ingredients, it is a staple recipe for any kitchen.
Heather soaked and cooked black eyed peas (which she said changed the meaning of slow food…dear lord they took a long time) in a mineral broth, with spinach, cherry tomatoes, garlic, a bunch of herbs and whatever else it took to make them a PERFECT side for our lamb…(trumpets please)…
Pretty Simple Fall off the Bone Braised Lamb Shanks (I looked through a couple of recipes, and followed a couple at a time, but made my own modifications and wrote it up with room for experimentation and “mistakes” – in quotes cause you really can’t botch this up):
- Go to your local butcher (high quality, local, grass fed, organic) and ask for enough lamb shanks for about 6 people (you always want to have leftovers, and you can use the bones for broth!) – unsure how many pounds this was
- 2 tbsp brown rice flour
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large yellow sweet onions, finely chopped
- 1 bunch of carrots, chopped up
- 1 bunch of celery, chopped up
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or chopped finely (if you don’t have a mincer. I don’t.)
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (preferably from a glass jar. I know…picky, but the whole BPA in the lining of the can thing is real, peeps)
- 1 box of chicken stock (4 cups worth)
- 1 cup any cheap red wine
- Chopped fresh thyme, rosemary and Italian parsley – a few sprigs of each to chop finely
- 2 bay leaves, each chopped in half
- Really good celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 pinches of Herbs de Provence (the herbs in that cute little ceramic pot – everyone should have this herb mix in their kitchen)
Rub lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper; dust with flour. Heat oil in heavy large deep pot over medium-high heat (best is Le Creuset French oven pot – and you might need two). Working in 2 batches, if necessary, add lamb to pot and brown on all sides, turning often, about 10 minutes. Transfer lamb to large bowl and set aside. Add onions, carrots, and celery to same pot; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes (may need to toss a bit more olive oil in there). Add garlic and tomato paste; stir all together. Stir in broth, wine and herbs. Return lamb to pot; bring to boil (liquid may not cover lamb completely and that’s ok). Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lamb is very tender and begins to fall off bones, turning occasionally and spooning juices over the exposed meat about 3 times over a course of about 3 hours.
Using tongs, transfer lamb to platter. Ladle juices over lamb and serve, allowing some extra juice to be poured over lamb into individual plates so it’s stew-ish. EMBRACE LIVER (or just high quality meat).