Cooking with beer never occurred to me to use as a braising liquid until one day, a long time ago, a friend of mine from the mid-west showed me how to cook bratwursts in beer. The end result was a nice, juicy piece of meat with a hint of tang. It was back then that I realized, well if I use wine to make my stews, why not beer? The challenge was to find a piece of meat that could stand up to the flavors.
Braising is a cooking technique that requires you to cook your ingredients, usually meats, for a long time under medium-low heat. This allows the meat to become extremely tender that it falls off the bone and soaks up all the great flavors from the vegetables, herbs and broth it is simmering in.
So following some basic steps for making my favorite braised dish, boeuf bourguignon, I created this braised lamb shank recipe. I chose lamb, well because I like lamb, but you could also do this with a turkey leg. Both have nice dark meat is sweet enough to withstand its drunken hot tub of fermented barley hops and other herbs and vegetables I may throw at it. Plus by braising with the bone, you get a nice lamb or turkey flavor infused into the sauce.
While in my head it’s really inspired from my love for French provencal cooking, the end flavors is really is more Mediterranean. The green olives, raisins and dried apricots added at the end gives the dish a subtle salty and sweetness that complements the tangy and acidity of the sauce. And instead of rosemary or thyme, cumin and parsley are added to round out all the flavors.
Serve over some fluffy pilaf rice or couscous.
Drunken Braised Lamb Shank
2 lamb shanks
1 bottle of dark beer
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen peas
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup of onions, chopped
½ cup of celery, chopped
½ cup of carrots, chopped
1/4 cup of dried apricots
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup of green olives, sliced
1. In a large hot pan, sear the lamb shanks on all sides until you have a nice brown color. Remove from pot and set aside.
2. In a same large pot deglaze the bottom of the pan with a little bit of butter or olive oil too loosen the lamb bits. Then add garlic, onions, celery, squash, carrots, cumin powder and salt and pepper for a few minutes.
Alternative Technique for Vegetables: Create a sofrito, which is a finely chopped mixture of carrots, celery and onion. Use a food processor to create the sofrito and add to the pot along with some tomato paste and a little bit of the beer. Cook down before adding the spices and lamb shanks. The end result is a nice pureed sauce.
3. Place the lamb shanks back into the pot and add a bottle of beer and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
4. Add diced tomatoes with the juice and 2 cups of water (enough to fully cover the shanks and vegetables). Cover and cook on medium low heat for at least two hours. Note, the longer you let simmer the better, up to 6 hours. Add water and season if you cook this duration.
5. When the meat is tender (as in falling off the bone), add the peas, raisins and olives. Cook for about 10 minutes more until the peas are heated all the way through.
6. Season to taste and serve over couscous and fresh parsley.