a few months ago i bought some locally produced lamb shanks at the nashville farmers market and then tucked them away in my freezer for just the right day. and then yesterday, on a whim i sat them out to defrost and began snooping around the interwebs for some inspiration. i wound up on food52′s site and glanced at 2 different recipes – and then i was off. within a minute i had found just what i needed, and based on what was in the pantry and the refrigerator i got to cooking.
the shanks got salted and peppered and well-browned in olive oil. the meat was removed from the pot and in went a dice of onion, garlic, carrots and fennel. when it was all softened and just barely starting to color i added some pimenton, red chile flakes and fennel pollen. after a minute or so i added some of my chicken stock along with about 2/3′s of a bottle of decent zinfandel. i let that simmer for about 2 hours.
when the meat was easily removed from the bone, into the pot went the flesh of one navel orange and 3 tangerines along with some of the grated zest. and then to finish i added some diced up dates, preserved meyer lemons and green olives.
then i called it a night and everything went into the refrigerator.
and tonight it was dinner. and really, a stew such as this does well with an overnight rest. everything melds together and somehow the flavors deepen. it’s a given. we all know it, and we all do it. right?
a few months ago i also bought a package of yellow grits. it was an impulse buy. i liked the look of the labeling and i am a huge polenta lover and i just figured, why not? grits are pretty standard fare down around these parts but i never really make them. no reason. i’ve just not hit a ‘grits phase’ yet. for those of you who may have wondered, the difference between grits and polenta is twofold. the grind and the type of corn used. the following is taken from the anson mills site:
Dent or Flint?
Corn is classified by the type of starch (endosperm) in its kernels. The premier mill corn of the American South, known as dent (the name derives from the dent that forms on the top of each kernel as it dries), has a relatively soft, starchy center. Dent corn makes easy work of milling–it also makes phenomenal grits.
Flint corn, by contrast, has a hard, starchy endosperm and produces grittier, more granular meal that offers an outstanding mouthfeel when cooked. One type of American flint–indigenous to the Northeast–was, and remains, the traditional choice for Johnny cakes. In Italy, flint has been the preeminent polenta corn since the 16th century when Spanish and Portuguese treasure hunters brought Caribbean flint to the Piedmont on ships."
The first corn was taken to Italy in the hold of ships to hide gold and other treasures from pirates on the high seas. However there were famines and the people used it for food. Finding that they liked it, they began to cultivate it in Italy and another New World crop became part of Italian cuisine.
the stew was quite good and i highly recommend that you use this as a jumping off point for whatever you have laying around. chicken thighs, legs, beef, pork…
it’s hard to go wrong.