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Braised Leg of Lamb Recipe with Garlicky Root Vegetable Puree

This braised leg of lamb recipe is from the cookbook, Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark.

Author Melissa Clark writes:

Maybe it’s because I grew up spending Christmas Eve in Chinatown with my clan of New York City Jews, but celebrating the holiday has always felt like a work in progress. Since I’m not wedded to any one particular tradition, I’ve jumped around, trying different ones on for size.

When I was married to an Italian-American man, he and I made elaborate feasts of seven fish for Christmas Eve, just like his family always did, and served them to a group of close friends.

After our divorce, I invited the same friends over for the holiday but cooked up whatever festive party food I felt like making; though I have to admit that I took fish off the menu.

Then Daniel moved in and we started from scratch, looking to create new holiday traditions together.

One of them has become braising a large hunk of meat. For our family, it’s the ideal holiday dish. We can braise it in advance, serve it to friends on Christmas Eve, then reheat the leftovers for Christmas dinner, when we are too tired from opening presents and our annual Christmas walk around the park (one of my new favorite traditions) to want to cook anything new.

We’ve varied the contents of the braising pot over the years, but keep coming back to leg of lamb because we both love it, and since we don’t eat it very often, it seems like a special meal. Plus braising a bone-in leg of lamb is an excellent way to cook it. The marrow flows into the sauce, thickening and seasoning it, while the meat collapses and becomes spoonably soft.

In this recipe, I’ve added anchovy and olives to the pot to give the sauce a tangy depth that works well with all the rich meat. It’s especially nice served over a smooth, sweet root vegetable puree spiked with garlic, which acts like a velvety sauce. On Christmas Day, we toss the leftovers with pasta. It’s a wonderful new two-day tradition, boiled down into one pot.

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Braised Leg of Lamb with Garlicky Root Vegetable Puree

Featured Recipe From: Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 shank end leg of lamb (4 1/2 pounds), bone in, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle fruity white wine
  • 3 small onions (3/4 pound), peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 3 large carrots (3/4 pound), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 large parsnip (1/4 pound), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 sage or thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup pitted and coarsely chopped green olives
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

For the garlicky root vegetable puree:

  • 1 large celeriac bulb, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Directions:

1. To prepare the lamb: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rub the lamb with 1 tablespoon oil, and season it with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the stock and wine to a boil; allow it to bubble gently and reduce while you saute the vegetables, about 10 minutes or so.

3. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the carrots and parsnip, anchovies, 1/4 teaspoon salt, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, rosemary, sage, and bay leaf. Turn off the heat and pour in just enough of the stock-wine mixture to cover the vegetables. Place the lamb, fatty-side up, on top of the vegetables.

4. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Then add the remaining stock, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to 325°F. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, at a bare simmer, reducing the heat if necessary, then turn the lamb over. Cook 1 1/2 hours longer and turn the lamb over again. Uncover the pot and stir in the olives. Cook another hour, turning the lamb after 30 minutes. At this point the lamb should be soft enough to cut with a serving spoon. If not, cover the pot and continue to cook until it is.

5. To prepare the root vegetable puree, in a large saucepan, combine the celery root, potatoes, parsnips, peeled garlic cloves, and bay leaves. Pour in 12 cups water and 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain, discard the bay leaves, and transfer the root vegetables and garlic to a food processor. Add the butter, remaining teaspoon salt, and nutmeg; process until very smooth. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Keep warm or reheat before serving.

6. Just before serving, mash the finely chopped garlic and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to form a paste. Stir it into the lamb's pan juices.

7. To serve, make a bed of root vegetable puree on each plate. Cut the lamb with a serving spoon, and lay some of it over the puree, along with some vegetables and pan juices.

What Else?
Lamb legs can be really big. Sometimes they are so big that they barely fit into your pot and the bone sticks out in a very ungainly manner. If you think of it while you are at the butcher, ask them to trim the bone end down a bit, which will make for less awkward handling.

If you make the braise the day before you want to serve it, you'll be able to degrease the pot. Let the lamb cool, then chill overnight (if it's cold out, I will often just put the whole covered cast-iron pot on my deck). In the morning, spoon off the layer of yellow fat that's risen to the surface and discard it. Then reheat the braise before serving. Do this before adding the garlic paste, which should be done just before serving.

Shanks can be substituted for the leg of lamb if you like. You'll need 6 of them. If you like, you can brown them before braising. I usually do because it does intensify the lamb-y flavor, and unlike trying to brown an unwieldy bone-in leg of lamb, browning shanks is easy. Then the shanks will cook in about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

© 2011 Melissa Clark, Inc.

Reprinted with permission from Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make, by Melissa Clark (Hyperion)

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