lamb shank stew (peposo notturno style)

ever since reading bill buford's kitchen memoir 'heat', i have been in love with his peposo notturno, a long-cooked peppery beef shank dish (but i use lamb rather than beef).  the recipe calls for baking and lots of wine and pepper.  i improvised with what sounded good and what we had on hand, adding mushrooms, rosemary, preserved lemon and an 11 grain mix from kasa koda.  if you have a dutch oven, you can follow the steps up to the simmering part and bake it at 225 degrees.  about the stew: get ready for succulent, warming, rich and homey.  the meat will fall apart and the flavors will come together in a subtle earthy harmony.  serve with a simple salad of winter greens, homemade kim chi and a glass of red wine, preferably the same one you cooked with.  you may experience a conversational lull while eating as its hard to focus on anything other than the delicious food!  serves 2 heartily or 4 less so.

1 lamb shank

1/4 cup dried shitake mushrooms (1/2 cup fresh)

8 cloves garlic, chopped

3-4 sprigs rosemary (about 2 Tbl chopped)

1 Tbl fresh ground pepper

1/2 preserved lemon and more for serving*

1 Tbl butter or olive oil

3 cups bone broth

1 cup brown rice or grain mix, soaked

2-3 cups red wine (simple red, chianti or zin)

The night before you’ll want to soak your grains, or if you forgot, do it the morning of.  add 1 cup of rice to a bowl and cover by an inch with warm filtered water and 1 Tbl apple cider vinegar.  cover and let sit between 7 and 24 hours.  strain, rinse well and set aside.  (if you are the plan ahead type, you can also cover your lamb shank in pepper the night before as you prep the grains).

Remove the lamb shank from the refrigerator, cut into large chunks and cover in fresh ground pepper.  at this point, prep the rosemary by removing the leaves from the stem and mincing.  keep the stems and leaves for the stew.  once the shank comes to room temperature (about 30 minutes) heat the oil in a large stew pot to a medium heat.  add the shank pieces and brown on all sides, a few minutes per side.  this can be splattery and hot, use caution and don’t wear your favorite shirt. 

Once the shanks have browned, add the broth & wine, garlic, rosemary, preserved lemon, mushrooms (i like to keep them whole) and more pepper (equal to about a Tbl).  bring to a boil, then put a lid on and turn the heat down to a very low simmer.  you’ll keep this up for the next 5-7 hours!  make sure the shanks are mostly covered by liquid, add a bit more of water, broth or wine if necessary.

When you are an hour away from eating, give the stew a good stir.  the meat should be falling off the bone and the broth should be a bit thicker, taste and adjust seasonings adding a bit more pepper or rosemary if you like.  if  you’ll be serving with the preserved lemons, don’t over-salt.  at this point, you will add the rinsed and strained rice or grains.  mix in and cover again.  continue to simmer for the remaining hour.  turn off heat.  let sit covered for 10 minutes before ladling into bowls.  serve with a small portion of preserved lemon and a glass of wine.

*if you don’t have preserved lemon around, add 2 lemon wedges (seeds removed) and 1/2 tsp or more of good sea salt