12.13.09: dinner (Barcelona’s Rioja-braised lamb shanks are a thing of beauty).

Rioja-Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlicky Polenta from Barcelona Wine Bar’s

Cold Sundays invariably mean that we’re going to crave something that has sat on the stove or in the oven all day, and given the fact that we had to take a taxi home from Fairway (because otherwise our grocery bags would have been soaked by the time we got home), indulging in braised meat paired with something to sop it up felt completely appropriate.  We were planning on making this dish from The Barcelona Cookbook long before we knew how bad the weather would be this day, but it was clear that Fate was ready to bop us on the heads with a cast iron skillet if we didn’t make it on such a grey, rainy, opressive day.

Braising the meat was unbelievably easy, especially following this recipe:  add some simple aromatics, stock, wine and herbs to the mix, and you will inevitably fill your apartment with the thick scent of slow-cooked meat.  The real challenge with these kinds of dishes is what starch to pair with it; pasta seems too much, couscous is a little grainy, and risotto is by far too rich to pair with anything more dense than veal–at least in my opinion.  I was therefore intrigued by the suggestion of making a garlic polenta to pair with these shanks–having been disappointed by a prior attempt at polenta-making a few years ago, this felt like it could be a moment of redemption.

To put it simply:  I couldn’t stop eating the final product, and Michael didn’t hate it.  When you have as singular as the sauce we enjoyed, it really didn’t matter anyway, as the polenta did its service in soaking up the lamby goodness.

Making the polenta wasn’t too difficult, to be honest:  I found a box of Italian polenta at Fairway (so much that only Italian was displayed on the front of the box), but I knew I’d have to figure out how to adjust the cookbook’s recipe to accommodate for the quick-cooking version, and happily, it all worked out.  This was significantly better than any other polenta recipes we’ve tried prior to this, to be sure, and now I want to always have milk on hand if it will lead to a simple, creamy side.

To get the recipe, check out The Barcelona Cookbook: A Celebration of Food, Wine, and Life (note:  we write about this only as devoted fans who received the book as a birthday gift from my parents–no promotional consideration was made but there is an affiliate link to the book on Amazon), and then make it, all the while trying not to play with the joints after you’ve sucked them dry of delicious meat and marrow.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Jill says:

    It is a rainy day here today and I am looking for something to cheer me up, so I turned to my electric skillet and the web. Your recipe sounds wonderful and it is going to be my pick me up. Thanks for sharing.

  2. dhaleb says:

    You had me at lamb shanks! My eyes popped out of their sockets when I saw this picture. I will definitely try making these soon!

  3. michael says:

    Nothing makes Elizabeth and I happier than a long braise on a cold day. I enjoy making lamb more than beef or veal, I think it handles the braise the best (although I will admit osso bucco generates the better sauce). Thanks for reading, everyone!

  4. jillian says:

    Is the NH restaurant worth visiting?

    1. elizabeth says:

      Yes. Yes yes yes. It’s bigger than the original in South Norwalk, and the waitstaff is usually very good.

  5. I love lamb shanks–they are the perfect food for a cold day!

  6. Xai says:

    the meat on that lambshank looks like it’s about to fall off. looks amazing!!!!

  7. Love the tenderness of lamb braised to perfection!

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