06.20.09: dinner (roasted figs, fontina and bread as a primo piatto and braised lamb shank as the main event).

Braised Lamb Shank with Sauteed Fennel

Braised Lamb Shank with Sauteed Fennel

Lamb shanks are a great cut of meat–they tend to be a little less expensive than veal shanks (especially the osso buco cuts) and really benefit from the hours-long braise–plus, once you’ve eaten all of the meat off the bone, you can amuse yourself with playing with the joint that remains.  Oh, wait–is that just us?  Then ignore that last bit.  Yes…

So we had some shanks in the freezer, and while Michael knew what he wanted to do with them, I needed to come up with a first course that didn’t involve couscous, pasta or risotto.  I decided on this:

Crostini with Proscuitto di Parma, Fontina Valle d'Aosta and Roasted Figs

Crostini with Proscuitto di Parma, Fontina Valle d'Aosta and Roasted Figs

I wanted to revisit that appetizer I did some time ago, albeit in a less-decadent fashion, and seeing some gorgeous figs at Romeo’s decided that there was no time like the present–hence a first course of bread, figs, cheese and prosicutto di Parma.  While our decision to do a more savory roast of these figs compared to our last attempt was due to what we had in our kitchen, I found I liked only using some balsamic vinegar and some salt to draw out some of the sweetness and honestly, I didn’t miss the honey.  Placing the cheese on the freshly-toasted bread allows it to lightly melt like adding a hot marshmallow to a chocolate bar in a s’more (and for the record, I was a Girl Scout and therefore can speak with authority on s’mores), and the results are truly satisfying.  It’s chewy and juicy and creamy–really, a beautiful cacaphony of sensations assaulting your mouth all at once.

Needless to say, here’s how we did it:

Crostini with Prosciutto di Parma, Fontina di Valle d’Aosta and Roasted Figs:

serves 2-3, depending on how hungry you are.

  • 1/2 pint fresh figs, sliced
  • Kosher salt (about a teaspoon)
  • 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 pound of Fontina di Valle d’Aosta, sliced to specifications (you will likely not use it all–save it for something else!)
  • 1/4 pound of Proscuitto di Parma, sliced as thin as possible
  • 6 slices of ciabatta bread

Lightly toast the bread if you’re so inclined; rub with a clove of garlic if you’re very inclined.  In the meantime, arrange the fig halves in some foil or a Pyrex dish with the salt and the vinegar, and throw into an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees.  Depending on your oven, check on them after six minutes; it will be likely that you will need more time to let them really roast.  When soft and sweet, remove and let cool.

Arrange crostini toasts and layer fontina on top of the warm bread, then add proscuitto.  Add cooled (to the touch) figs and then enjoy!

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