The best recipes for entertaining are the ones that enable you serve a fancy meal from a spotless kitchen. The trick: Make all or most of the food in advance.
Pano Karatassos, executive chef at Kyma, demonstrated his recipe for braised lamb shanks with fennel at the Morningside Farmers Market on Oct. 29. It’s the perfect dish to serve at a holiday dinner because most of the work happens in your oven, while you’re doing other things. Although the ingredient list looks long, don’t be intimidated. You can knock out the prep work in about an hour, long before your guests arrive. The only thing you need to do before serving is to prepare the pasta—and as long as you have all your ingredients chopped, measured and ready to go, you can pull together this final step in about 12 fuss-free minutes.
If you can’t find trahanas—a tangy Greek pasta made with goat-milk yogurt—in your nearby Middle Eastern grocery store, then substitute couscous and add an extra splash of lemon juice.
Plan on 1 shank per serving. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 4 hours 45 minutes
For the lamb shanks:
2 bone-in lamb shanks, 12 to 14 ounces each
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons blended oil (70 percent canola, 30 percent olive) or vegetable oil
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1 ½ cups thinly sliced onion (1 large)
1 cup sliced fennel
8 cloves garlic, sliced
12 thyme sprigs
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously season the lamb shanks with salt and white pepper. Add the oil to a Dutch oven (or other suitable pan for braising) over medium-high heat. Add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Return the Dutch oven to medium heat. Add the butter and thyme sprigs. When the butter melts, baste the shanks with some of the butter. To the Dutch oven add the onion, fennel and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Return the shanks to the Dutch oven and add the broth. Cover with parchment paper and the lid, or cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place in the oven.
Cook until the meat is extremely tender—you will be able to easily slide a cake tester in and out of the meat—about 4 ½ hours. Remove from the oven and let rest until the shanks and their braising liquid until warm. (Can be prepared 4 hours in advance. Reheat the shanks and braising liquid until meat is completely tender again before continuing with recipe.)
2 cups tomato puree*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Freshly ground white pepper
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, reduce the tomato puree by half.
Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and thyme and cook until caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Discard the thyme leaves. Stir the shallots and oil into the reduced tomato puree. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
*To make tomato puree, run a 28-ounce can of low-sodium crushed tomatoes through the food processor, and then strain.
2 ½ cups chicken stock or braising liquid from shanks
1 cup trahana pasta
1 cup tomato compote, see recipe above
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon julienned Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon diced fennel, blanced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Bring 2 ½ cups stock or braising liquid to a boil and add the pasta. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring every 2 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato compote, olive oil, lemon juice, olives, fennel, chives, fennel fronds and parsley. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
To serve, spoon half of the pasta onto each plate and top with a lamb shank.
Images: Pano Karatassos (courtesy T. Brodnax); fennel