This is a dish of ancho-braised lamb shank with panisse, squash, yogurt, and a warm salad of tomato, charred green pepper, cilantro, and pumpkinseeds.
While the components are compatible and well-integrated, there were many disparate inspirations.
Core Elements and Inspirations
- I like to have one braised item on every menu. It is an essential technique for my students to learn, it’s a good balance to the many lean pan-roasted or grilled proteins on our menu, and it helps simplify service as it can be hot-held. I decided lamb shank would be this season’s braise.
- I was eager to serve panisse with lamb.
- I love lamb and yogurt.
- I was also keen to feature the peeled cherry tomatoes discussed in this post. I read about a Moroccan salad that combines tomato and green pepper in Paula Wolfert’s Couscous.
At this point the dish was firmly rooted in the Mediterranean. However some issues with the sauce took the dish in a very different direction.
The Sauce: ‘Ancho Jus’
For a braise like this I typically make a jus lié by doing the following:
- Let the braise cool in its cooking liquid.
- The next day, remove any fat that has congealed on the surface.
- Gently heat the braise to melt the liquid.
- Remove the meat and strain and reserve the liquid.
- If necessary, reduce the liquid to achieve the desired concentration of flavour. If necessary, back add some wine or reduction to fortify flavours.
- Thicken the liquid with cornstarch.
This method has served me well at home and for casual catering. I found in this context the sauce did not have a great colour. It was rather muted and didn’t look rich. Also if it was heated and cooled to be held over for another service, it became clumpy.
I don’t fully remember how this came together, but I was interested in using Mexican dried chilis outside of the context of traditional Mexican food. Then it crossed my mind that all of the “Mediterranean” flavours on this dish (chickpea, tomato, bell pepper, lime, cilantro, cumin, et c) are also important in Mexican cooking. What if the braising liquid were thickened by the addition of ancho chilis? What if the warm tomato salad were garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish?
It just so happened that the lamb shanks we had access to this season were all split in two. There were slightly wider pieces from the upper shank and narrower pieces from the lower part. For a sense of symmetry and balance I served two small triangular pieces of panisse.
The yogurt gel is used to anchor the rather slippery cherry tomatoes.
We had a really beautiful squash purée we were using on some other dishes, and it was added to this plate as a visual balance to the yogurt and an anchor for the lamb and panisse.