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The Federal Braised Lamb Shank with Braised Fennel, Roasted Mushrooms and Smoked Grapes

Photo courtesy of the California Table Grape Commission
From: The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions, Miami. Yield: 2 lamb shanks.

2 lamb shanks, about 1 lb. each
to taste, freshly ground black pepper
as needed, all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium leek, trimmed, quartered, washed, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large celery stock, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and cut in half
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1 bottle red wine, preferably zinfandel
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
to taste, salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mushrooms and Fennel:
2 cups mixed mushrooms, preferably cremini, trumpet royales and oyster
1 head fennel, quartered lengthwise
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. olive oil
to taste, salt and pepper

Smoked Grapes:
1 cup red grapes
1 oz. applewood smoke chips

as needed, fennel fronds

For lamb: Salt and pepper the lamb shanks, dredge in flour and pat off excess. Set large braising pan over moderately high heat. When hot, add just enough butter to cover bottom of pan. When butter foams, add lamb shanks and cook, turning often with tongs until shanks are browned on all sides. When shanks have been completely browned, set them on a side dish Remove excess fat from pan, but leave some to cook vegetables. Return to burner over medium heat. Add onion, leek, carrots, celery, shallot and garlic to braising pan, adding more butter if necessary to coat. Saute, stirring frequently, for several minutes until lightly browned. Raise heat to medium high, add thyme and bay leaf and cook 4 minutes more, stirring frequently until vegetables are softened and caramelized. Add tomato paste covering vegetables; cook for approximately two minutes. Deglaze with red wine and let reduce by ¼, add shanks to pot and add stocks; if necessary add more liquid to cover ingredients. Bring to a simmer on top of stove, then cover and set in preheated 275°F oven. Shanks will cook for approximately 3 hours. Shanks are done when meat is tender if pierced with a fork and can be pulled cleanly away from bone.

To skim braising liquid: Remove lamb shanks to side dish, covering with foil to keep warm. Strain contents of braising pan into clean saucepan, pressing on ingredients to extract all liquid and discarding solids. Using a ladle, skim any visible fat off surface of liquid. Set braising liquid over medium-high heat and reduce by half, continuously skimming the fat off surface. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Just before serving, remove from heat and swirl in butter.

For mushrooms and fennel: In a separate pan, add butter and 1 tsp. olive oil; sauté mushrooms until caramelized. Do not salt before caramelizing. Salt forces mushrooms to release water and hinders caramelization. Season caramelized mushrooms with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and add to braising liquid. In same pan, add butter and 1 tsp. olive oil; sear fennel on all sides until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and add to braising liquid.

For smoked grapes: In a stovetop smoker, add applewood chips. Place rack and add grapes. Close smoker, turn heat to low and smoke for approximately 20 minutes. Note: make sure to do this in a well-ventilated area. Grapes should be vibrant in color but not raisin-like. Remove grapes from smoker. Slice in half and add to sauce with mushrooms.

To serve: Place a pool of sauce with mushrooms and grapes in center of the plate. Add braised fennel and place lamb shank on top of fennel. Top lamb shank with more sauce and garnish with fennel fronds.

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