When I spotted this on Stacey Snacks, I knew I was making this dish. Two things happened to seal that deal.
My butcher had pork shanks (I never knew they existed) and the Daring Cooks Challenge for March was "braising". There might have been a third reason but it escapes me right now.
I found the original recipe here, and since I can't leave good enough alone I dropped a few dried apricots into the braising liquid.
Dried fruits and pork have always been a natural pairing in Asian cuisine, going all the way back to ancient China where they used fruits to sauce meat dishes. We all know that anything Asian, eventually made it's way down the spice route and apricots ending up staying put, took to the climate all around the Mediterranean and are huge in Islamic cooking.
Since pork and Islam do not mix, lamb is most often the meat of choice.
The Nudge does not like the taste of lamb, isn't thrilled with slow braised veal but said he thinks he will like the pork shanks. Ahhhh, there's the third reason that sealed the deal.
Most braises are of one ingredient, mostly a meat or vegetable and they are done in an oven with a flavored liquid, coming half way up but not covering the item. Braised fennel, artichokes, leeks, endive, you get the picture and while researching this challenge, I came across a pasta dish using braised artichokes that looked to die for (but that's another post).
Not only does braising impart huge flavors into food, it is a good healthy way to eat.
The best part? It's a once pot meal that needs no maintenance.....I am all for that!!
Once my shanks have braised to perfection, I will remove and cook the lentils in the braising liquid and at then add a spring mix of baby greens (so French of me and a great way to use up those limp greens), so I guess one could say I am uni-tasking. You just gotta love it.
The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.
Braised Pork Shanks with Lentils
makes 2 servings, can be doubled
* 2 pork shanks
* 1/2 large white onion, diced
* 3 medium carrots, diced
* 4 gloves garlic, minced
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 1 cup white wine
* 1 tablespoon tomato paste
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/4 cup chopped parsley
* 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
* salt, pepper and flour
* olive oil
* Zest and juice from 1 lemon (optional)
* 2/3 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked over
* 2 cups spring mix lettuces
Heat olive oil in dutch oven. Saute carrots and onions for 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add tomato paste and herbs. Saute everything for 1-2 minutes more. Add the wine, broth and bay leaf.
Return the shanks to the pot and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the pork.
Cover the pot and place in a pre-heated 350° oven for 2 1/2 hours.
Remove shanks from pot and place on a plate. Return pot to stovetop, add lentils and enough water to barely cover them. Stir and with the lid, simmer on low, adding more water to keep the lentils moist but not swimming. When lentils are just about done, remove the cover, put the shanks back into the dutch oven and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed.
Add the lettuce and lemon (optional).
Serve with couscous, bulgur, barley or fregola (roasted semolina pasta pearls).
Review: One shank was more than enough for the both of us and next time I get a hankerin' for a pulled pork and coleslaw sandwich I don't have to buy a whole shoulder, I can use a shank built for two.