LAMB SHANKS BRAISED IN CHICKEN BROTH, CHICKPEAS AND NORTH AFRICAN (MERGUEZ) SPICES (for four)
Morocco is known for its merguez sausages, which are strongly flavored with cumin.
½ tablespoon cumin seeds
½ tablespoon fennel seeds
½ tablespoon coriander seeds
1/8 cup sweet paprika
½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoons cayenne pepper
4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
one 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
one 19-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
Put rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375*.
- In a small skillet, toast the cumin, fennel and coriander seeds over moderately low heat until just fragrant, about 1 minute; let cool completely. Grind the seeds in a spice grinder, then transfer to an airtight container. Stir in paprika, black pepper, sugar, allspice and cayenne and cover the merguez spice blend until ready to use.
- Season the lamb with salt and dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess. In a large enameled cast iron casserole, melt the butter in the olive oil. Brown the shanks, in batches if necessary, turning occasionally, until well colored, about 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb shanks t0 a plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the casserole.
- Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the onion to the casserole and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the spice blend along with the tomato paste and cook until aromatic, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the chicken stock and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the tomatoes.
- Return the lamb to the casserole and pour in any accumulated juices. Add the chickpeas. Pour in just enough of the remaining chicken stock to cover the meat and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and transfer to the oven. Braise the shanks for 1-1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bones.
- Transfer the braised lamb shanks to a large, deep platter. Using a large spoon, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the shanks and serve accompanied by couscous. Pass the harissa at the side.
adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, November, 2008