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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lamb Shank Confit with Cilantro Mint Ratatouille

I may be committing Ratatouille sacrilege, but there is something so exciting about stepping outside the cookie cutter boundaries of traditional French food, I just can't help myself.  Something feels so wrong but so right about using cilantro and mint in place of basil or thyme, and using chilis instead of bell peppers.  It gives the ratatouille a whole new identity that is magnified by the Lamb Shank Confit.  Confit is a French word used to describe cooking something in sugar (like jam) or low and slow in it's own juices (like duck legs).  Cooking lamb in it's own juices is something that is just amazing and incredibly easy with a crockpot.  Everything just magically happens on its own, even the browning.  Lamb shanks are especially perfect for this cooking method, and it won't heat up your kitchen in this blistering heat!
The best part of the confit is sucking the marrow out of the lamb bones when nobody is looking.  It's so rewarding and delicious..
Serves 4
For Lamb Shank Confit:
2 lamb shanks
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp EVOO
3/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
few cracks pepper
3 Tbsp dried thyme
For Ratatouille:
1 very large eggplant, cubed
1 large zucchini, cubed
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 large shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 bell peppers (I used Moroccon light green chilis), chopped
2 large very juicy tomatoes, chopped
3 Tbsp very fine quality EVOO
1 large handful chopped cilantro
1  handful chopped mint
2 chopped scallions
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
2 (or more) tsp flake salt/fleur de sel
1.  Prepare the confit.  Place all the lamb shank ingredients in the crockpot and cook on low for 6-7 hours, turning the meat once (since it will be above the liquid level and will brown.  After this time, the meat should be falling off the bones.
2.  Prepare the Ratatouille.  Soak the cubed eggplant in a large bowl of salted water for about 15-20 minutes, then drain.  This will prevent the eggplant from being an oil sponge.  I learned this method from a Sichuan eggplant recipe and find it to work beautifully.
During this time you can prep your other ingredients or go over the day's events, contemplating whether or not you made the right choices, or if the right choices were made for you, but then realizing those choices were made out of love for you, so in some way you should be grateful, but your heart just doesn't beat in a way that makes sense..
and then reflecting on all the wonderful experiences you've had and may never have again.
The show must go on.....I suppose.
3.  Heat the olive oil in a wok and add the shallots.  Cook until translucent, then add the soaked eggplant cubes.  Stir well so all the pieces are coated with oil add lemon juice, some fleur de sel and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes then push to the side of the pan.
4.  Add the zucchini cubes.  Stir well and cook for a bit longer than the eggplant, then push to the side.
5.  Add the garlic and bell peppers.  Stir fry about 1-2 minutes, then add the tomatoes.  
6.  When the tomatoes start becoming a bit mushy (maybe 2-3 minutes) add most of the scallions, cilantro, and mint, keeping enough to sprinkle on as garnish.
7.  Stir, cover, and cook on low heat for about 20-30 minutes, making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of your wok.
8.  Add some more fleur de sel and cracked pepper to taste.

Serve hot or warm.  I served it over some bulgur/quinoa mix and sprinkled with some punchy herbs.
This is comfort food, but stil rather healthy.. it's a great twist to the tradition!
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1 comment:

  1. The difference between Food and Love.
    We eat by desire, we love because it has no choice