The cold temperatures of January have me craving the delicious dishes of my childhood. After a day on the slopes or an afternoon of tobogganing with my sister there was nothing more comforting than coming home to the aroma of a slow and low simmering pot of stew or casserole that my mother had painstakingly put together that day. Most stews and casseroles use braising – part roasting and part stewing – as the main cooking method.
The great thing about braising is you can use a cheaper cut of meat such as lamb shanks, pork shoulder or beef chuck roast and turn these tougher cuts into a melt in your mouth delicacy. Stews and casseroles have a number of steps involved and you might be tempted to skip a few but I would encourage you to take your time browning the meat and sautéing the vegetables as this is what will impart the most flavour into your dish.
This recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks with Caramelized Onions and Shallots is a favourite of mine when I want to feed a large crowd because it uses economical Lamb Shanks and can be prepared the day before. If you don’t have the time to cook a dish for a few hours then turn to the One Pot Asian Chicken with Vegetables that is ready in under 30 minutes but still has that comforting feel of a casserole. Any way you stir it, one pot winter warmers are the perfect antidote to the January chills.
BRAISED LAMB SHANKS WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND SHALLOTS
Preparation Time 20 minutes
Cooking Time 2 ½ hours
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 large onions, sliced
• 5 large shallots, sliced
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
• 6 medium lamb shanks (preferably frenched by your butcher)
• all-purpose flour to coat
• 2 ½ cups (625ml) dry red wine
• 2 ½ cups (625ml) beef broth
• 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
• 2 bay leaves
1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large Dutch oven or heavy based pot over medium heat. Add sliced onions and shallots and sauté until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Mix in 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary. Remove from heat.
2. Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and pepper; coat lamb with flour. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add lamb shanks to skillet and cook until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer lamb shanks to plate. Add 1 cup dry red wine to same skillet and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour into Dutch oven with onion mixture. Add remaining 1 ½ cups red wine, beef broth, tomato paste and 2 bay leaves. Bring to boil, stirring until tomato paste dissolves. Add lamb shanks, turning to coat with liquid.
3. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lamb is almost tender, turning lamb shanks occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
4. Uncover Dutch oven, remove lamb shanks. Boil liquid is reduced to sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, return lamb shanks to pot and serve with roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes or a root vegetable mash.
ASIAN CHICKEN WITH VEGETABLES
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Notes: This chicken and vegetable dish is like a hearty main course soup best served in wide individual bowls.
• 1 tbsp vegetable oil
• 500g (1 lb) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
• 750ml (3 cups) chicken broth
• 75ml (1/3 cup) soy sauce
• 3 medium carrots, peeled and diagonally sliced ½ inch thick
• 2 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
• 250g sliced mushrooms (white, crimini and/or shiitake)
• 4 cups thickly sliced cabbage (regular or Chinese)
1. Heat oil in a large deep skillet or wok over medium-high heat; stir fry chicken for 3 to 4 minutes or until no longer pink inside.
2. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and cabbage; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are just crisp tender.
3. Serve in wide shallow soup bowls.