With spring lamb in season and an ample supply of dried beans from a local heirloom bean CSA, I've been wanting to create a variant of the classic lamb shanks braised with white beans. The coffee theme was an inspiration. For the lamb shanks, I created a rub of ground coffee, toasted cumin seeds, rosemary, red pepper flakes and garlic. For the broth I combined the flavors of star anise and cinnamon, as well as more cumin and smoked paprika, and to contrast with the bitterness of the coffee, I added dates and sun dried tomatoes. The final flavor was intense and complex. The beans I used were a lovely heirloom variety called Arikara, cultivated by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, that are slightly darker and earthier than white navy beans, but these would be a good substitute. The final dish is quite rich and a half shank suffices for a serving, along with a generous portion of the flavorful beans. I recommend degreasing the final broth, which is most easily done by cooking the dish a day in advance. To brighten the final dish, garnish with a mixture of orange zest and parsley. - Fairmount_market —Fairmount_market
Test Kitchen Notes
Beans and beans; what a clever take on the theme. Coffee beans and broad beans and the interesting combination of ingredients made it a must try for me. I used good quality white limas ( Rancho Gordo) for this recipe but you could use any good broad bean (Christmas Limas are one of my favorites!).
The lamb was flavorful and meltingly tender and the beans well-seasoned and creamy without being complete mush. Cooking it a day ahead gives all of those ingredients a chance to make friends and then you have the pleasure of an already made dish to serve. The lemon and parsley add a lovely brightness to the deep earthiness of this great cold weather dish! —Annie stader
4, among friends who are willing to share a shank
Prepare the coffee spice rub for the lamb: Heat a small skillet and toast the cumin seeds for a minute or so until fragrant, and transfer to a mortar. Put the garlic cloves in the skillet and toast for several minutes, turning, until they develop some brown spots and start to soften. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems, chop, and add to the mortar. Add the ground coffee, red pepper flakes, coarse sea salt, and peeled garlic cloves and smash well until the cumin seeds are crushed and you’ve created a smooth paste. You could also use a spice grinder or small food processor to prepare the rub. Coat the lamb shanks with the paste and let sit for a few minutes to infuse the flavors while you prep the other ingredients.
Soak the sun dried tomatoes in 2 cups boiling water for 15 minutes. Dice the onions and celery. Dice the dates and the sun-dried tomatoes, reserving the tomato-flavored water. Heat the oven to 325° F.
Heat a large Dutch oven or other ovenproof pan and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Over medium low heat, brown the lamb shanks on all sides, taking your time so that they have a chance to brown. Remove to a plate.
Add another splash of olive oil if necessary, and put the onions and celery into the pot. Cook, stirring, until they are glassy. Add the ground cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the diced dates and sundried tomatoes and cook another minute. Add the red wine and cook another minute. Add the rinsed beans, the reserved tomato-flavored water and three additional cups of boiling water. Nestle the lamb shanks into the beans, pouring in any juices that accumulated and add the star anise and cinnamon stick. Salt and add more boiling water if necessary to ensure that the beans are covered by 1 inch of liquid.
Heat the beans and lamb shanks on the stovetop until the liquid is simmering and then cover the pot and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for about three hours, turning the lamb shanks occasionally and adding a little water if necessary, until the beans are tender and the lamb meat is falling off the bones. Toward the end of the cooking period, you could remove the pot lid to allow more of the liquid to cook off. The dish will be quite rich from the lamb fat and benefits from degreasing. You may want to cook this a day ahead, refrigerate it overnight, and then remove the hardened fat from the surface, and the reheat. Alternatively, remove pools of liquid fat from the surface with a spoon.
Serve a generous portion of beans topped with a whole or half lamb shank. To prepare the garnish, chop together orange zest and parsley leaves and sprinkle over the lamb before serving.
I'm a biology professor and mother of two, and in my (limited) free time I love to cook, which is much more forgiving than laboratory science. Last year I helped start a farmers market in my neighborhood, and to promote it, I created a food blog: fairmountmarket.blogspot.com. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with recipes for local, seasonal ingredients and finding fun ways to cook with my children.