By Peter Platt, owner and executive chef
THE OLD INN ON THE GREEN
Chef Peter Platt’s lamb shanks at the Old Inn on the Green are a favorite. The setting is one of candlelit rooms in a 250-year-old inn in New Marlborough. The dining rooms are elegant yet offer an intimate dining experience. His menu indulges in tastes of the season, often locally foraged and sourced from farmers Peter knows well. This recipe is rich with deep flavors from the stock and the braising of the lamb, and a risotto with roasted vegetables that comforts hearty appetites in winter
Lamb shanks are one of the cuts of meat that benefit most from long, slow braising. Don’t omit the step of turning the shanks every half hour; it causes them to caramelize even as they braise. If the braising liquid seems too reduced at the end of the cooking process, stir 1 cup of water into the liquid before straining.
6 lamb fore shanks (Chef uses “fore” shanks rather than the rear shanks because they are, as a rule, meatier.)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups veal stock
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup demi-glace (a veal stock that has been reduced by half)
½ cup olive oil
1 whole head garlic, cut in half
2 spring fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 325°.
With a sharp knife, cut about 1 inch from the bottom (narrow end) of the shank bones down to the bone and all the way around; this will help expose the bone while cooking. Season the lamb shanks liberally with salt and pepper; set aside.
In a 2-quart saucepan on medium heat, add the veal and chicken stocks with the demi-glace. Heat and hold at simmer.
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, brown the shanks well in the olive oil on all sides, about 1 minute for each of 3 sides. Use tongs to flip them over.
Transfer the shanks to a roasting pan and pour the stock mixture on top. Add the garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil and cook for another 3 hours, turning the shanks over every half hour until the meat is very soft.
Remove the shanks from the braising liquid and strain the liquid. Skim any fat that rises to the surface and use the liquid as a sauce.
If you’ve ever tried a risotto recipe, you know that the process can’t be rushed if you want maximum results. Making risotto takes us about half an hour after the cooking starts, because we cook it over low or even warm heat.
To make risotto, you must use a certain type of rice: Italian Arborio (a fat, starchy, medium-grain rice) is by far the most common used in this country to make risottos, because it is available in most every grocery store. Other rices that work well are Roma, Vialone, Carnaroli, Nano and Maratelli.
A perfect Arborio dish is rich and creamy, so these starchy brands of rice are essential to the texture. If you use regular short- or long-grain generic rice, for example, you will likely wind up with sticky sushi rice.
Since every risotto we’ve ever made has taken a different amount of cooking stock, our suggestion to you is to have plenty at hand when your preparation is taking place—5–8 cups is about our norm.
So, have 8 cups of stock on hand to start. Homemade vegetable or beef stock is best for this risotto and will produce far superior results than packaged. However, if you must, purchase the best you can find.
4 cups diced roasted vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, mushrooms, celery root, carrots, parsnips
3 tablespoons plus ½ cup olive oil
2 quarts vegetable or beef stock
1 large onion, finely diced
2–3 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
2¼ cups Arborio rice
1 bottle dry white wine
White truffle oil
Freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375°.
Cut choice of vegetables into small dice; mix in bowl with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper
Spread in roasting pan large enough to hold them in 1 layer.
Roast 30–40 minutes, or until they caramelize and are fork tender.
Remove to bowl and set aside.
Simmer stock in pot on medium heat.
Heat olive oil in small pot until oil starts to smoke slightly. Fry onion with bay leaves until onion just starts to color.
Add rice and fry vigorously, stirring constantly to seal rice grains’ color. Stir for 2 minutes, then add wine.
Add simmering stock to rice a ladle at a time stirring with a wooden spoon until stock is absorbed.
Continue adding a ladle of stock and allowing to absorb each time, until rice is almost done cooking (about 13 minutes). Rice should be a little toothsome (al dente).
Turn rice out onto sheet pan or baking pan, spreading flat to allow it to cool.
At this point the rice and remaining stock can be put in a covered bowls in refrigerator for up to 2 days, until ready to finish. If holding for finish, roast vegetables the day you plan to serve.
Heat 2–3 heaping tablespoons of rice with 4–5 tablespoons of reserved stock per serving in a saucepan. When stock is absorbed and rice is hot, finish by stirring in a splash of truffle oil, the vegetables and a liberal amount of freshly grated Parmesan. Season to taste. Texture should be sloppy yet firm.
Edible Berkshires is a local, independently owned publication dedicated to covering the unique culinary culture of Western Massachusetts.