Fancy Family Dinner Pt 2: Slow Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Grape Gremolata, and Mallow-Praline Sweet Potato Pie

1 Mar

With the continuous battering of snow storms, the lack of sunshine and fading memories of the warmer days of yore, sometimes you just need to give yourself a win. “But Spring is right around the corner” they say. “Look, the sun is staying out later each night” they tell me. To them I say “fehh!” I still have to run in the dark each night, change my socks on a regular basis because I walk through the puddles of water that emerge from tracked in snow, wipe my car off MULTIPLE times each day, fantasize about soup more than anyone should, and feel cold, all the time. Yes, I could use a morale boost, and the ever important personal “win.” I knew what must be done, I knew what measures had to be taken: It was time for Fancy Family Dinner Pt 2. Cue Lindsey.

Lindsey (if you need a refresher on who she is, check out the original Fancy Family Dinner) came up to Ann Arbor on Saturday, and we decided to take the first night off with some delicious Pho from Tomukun Noodle Bar (I’ve just really been on an Asian Noodle Soup kick lately), and spend Sunday preparing fancy dinner. And hey, The Oscars were happening that night too. It was an elegant evening not to be soon forgotten. Once our breath-taking ball gowns were picked out and our up-dos did (not really, of course) we settled on

{ Stephanie Izzard – Girl In The Kitchen – Slow Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Grape Gremolata }

{ Better Homes and Gardens – Mallow-Praline Sweet Potato Pie }


We’ve never worked with meat in the form of lamb or shanks, and sweet potato pie because why the hell not. While joking about the $26 Scallops (read: suppressing all emotion and anger deep, deep down) we headed out to see just where one buys Lamb Shanks. Turns out most anywhere. Splendid.

So as with any meal consisting of multiple items, it was time to strategize. The Lamb was going to braise for 1.5-2 hours, so we’ll need to get that started so we can make everything else while it simmers in it’s own delicious gamey juices. And the pie? Let’s go ahead and assume we’ll be QUITE full from the HUGE personal lamb shanks, so while we’d like it to be ideally ready at the end of the meal, there was no rush. Boom, prioritizing complete.


Yep, that’s what Lamb Shanks look like in grocery sale form. Vulgar isn’t it? Well get over it because you have to tong those behemoths and give them a nice sear in your giant dutch oven.


Then pile them up in the most barbaric way possible


Wait a second. Is that….oh my sweet jesus it is: Look at that BONE MARROW


If you’ve never experienced bone marrow, stop everything you’re doing right now and dramatically throw whatever is in your hands/nearby, run toward the door while knocking others down, and go somewhere that serves bone marrow. Trust me on this one. Now chop up some onions, toss them into the pan with the sweet sweet meat juices, add some liquids to deglaze (wine, HOMEMADE stock, etc), then toss those shanks back in for some good old fashioned braising.


Full Disclosure: We kept the meat on the stovetop covered, but I’m quite sure that they were supposed to be popped into the oven. Were we wrong? Probably, yeah, most-likely definitely. But hey, #yolo.

Now, what the hell is Gremolata? A condiment of the chopped-herb persuasion apparently. This one uses mint, basil, orange zest, lemon zest, and….roasted grapes. Did you just soil yourself? I know, it sounds amazing. We kept the grapes in the oven for about 15 minute longer than the recipe required because I wanted to make sure they were the right amount of “gushy” when we combined them. And I’m glad we did.


This component ended up being the favorite of the night. Everything else was TOP NOTCH, but this had such an amazing complexity and layering of flavors to it. I will definitely be making this (in many different forms as well) again…especially when I start my indoor herb garden in May (I’ll explain more in a later post).

What else went with the lamb? Oh yeah, curried Cauliflower. This part was so simple, and so tasty, I just HAD to make a gif out of it:


(sing to the theme of Hokey Pokey): 

You take your o-live oil, you take your but-ter, you put it in a pan and let it simmer all a-bout

Throw in some chopped up shall-ots and a litt-le bit of garlic, wait the song is-n’t o-ver

Do you smell a-that? Nice and frag-a-rent, I think it’s time for that cau-li-flower

Stir it all together and then add some tas-ty spices, we’ve got ourselves a curried side-dish.

(I’m sorry)

Well, now that we have all the components of our main meal assembled, and the oven is free because SOMEONE (points at self) decided to use the stovetop for braising, let’s go ahead and make that pie. Peel your sweet potato, but don’t put the skins in the sink and assume your garbage disposal can handle it


Because it can’t and will clog everything. Yep, not staged–we had to plunger the sink (thanks John). It was thrilling and horrifying, all at the same time. Now cut up said sweet potato.


Boil it until tender, and then give it a good mash. I’d like to apologize in advance for the following gif:


I think I just made Lindsey an internet star. [insert high-brow manual stimulant joke]

Well after your mind has returned from the gutter, make your pie filling (eggs, buttermilk, maple syrup, spices, etc) and pour into a prepared pie shell. We took the route of science-expierment pouring, as in filling it to the top, and the keep going until a meniscus forms (remember that everyone? SCIENCE). Prepare to par-bake.


Now that the pie has been tricked into thinking it’s going to be cooked all the way, pull it out and get ready to freak out (in a delicious way) over what you’re about to do. Top with toasted pecans and mini marshmallows.


Oh wow, that looks amazing. What? There’s more? You pour on caramel-like sauce you just made on the stove over all of that?PieI…I need to sit down. Ha Cha Cha. Now…why is there foil on that baking sheet? Oh, it all puffs up and melts together to create an amazing crust on top while letting the access drop down to brûlée itself? Ah.

PieFinalI know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not overdone, it’s juuuuuust right. We ate the brûléed part for days after, and then had to stop when I started getting crazy sugar attack cravings (read: I wanted some, so I’d have a big hunk, and then act like I was on cocaine by strumming nearby surfaces and nodding my head quickly).

But now, back to the Coup de grace. Braised Lamb Shanks over Curried Cauliflower with Grape Gremolata. After everything was ready, we were all lining up to make plates, until we read the last line of the recipe where you take the shanks out, and boil down the braising liquid to create a thick sauce. Crap. So after a VERY impatient 15 minutes and about 1/4 of the liquid evaporated we said “Screw it” and just started plating.

LambAboveYeah, it’s just as good as it looks. As I mentioned before, the grape gremolata ended up being the real game changer, and look at that sweet delicious bone marrow just waiting to be sucked out.

LambTableWait, let’s bring it back a bit…

LambTableBigWell that’s a tasty looking beer, whatever could that be? Not Just Another Wit from Mikkeller you say? I bet whoever’s beer that is is the type of person that girls want to be, and guys want to date.

On an unrelated note, our 4th companion for Fancy Family Dinner (I’m looking your way, Robert) thought the name of this blog was “This Way To Good Food” and I’ve been having a severe internal struggle for the past few days because wow, what a name! However it shall remain Flavor Country, because there is a great backstory to that name, which perhaps one day I will share with you all.

Cheers to Family Dinner! It has bought me at least another 3 weeks of not having the “Winter Blues” which coincidentally will take me right up to my Birthday (ahem, March 19).

3 Responses to “Fancy Family Dinner Pt 2: Slow Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Grape Gremolata, and Mallow-Praline Sweet Potato Pie”

  1. John Simmons March 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Kewl 🙂

  2. cookinginsens March 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    gorgeous shanks.

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