When I first started cooking in San Francisco I met an amazing chef who became a great friend of mine until the day he passed – a little over 10 years now. Joe Carvajal and I would spend our work nights together cooking – and on special occasions (that is after some drinks) line dancing in the restaurants open kitchen – much to the applause of the hungry patrons. On our days off if we weren’t headed to Salsa Sundays at El Rio or driving his huge vintage car (boat) to the EndUp – we spent the day cooking at his kitchen in his Panhandle apartment. He inspired me immensely with his nonchalant way of cooking. One of his catch phrases was “Make it smell Mary” – and he yelled it out at the top of his lungs to a diva serving you everything onstage.
This braised lamb dish was one he would prepare in late winter / early spring. I believe it was one passed onto him from one of his former chef’s – and it has stayed in my repertoire over the years. It is rich in flavor and so satisfying on a cold day. We always ate it with fresh corn tortillas.
Lamb Shanks Braised w/ Chorizo & Hominy
4 lamb shanks, about 1 1/4 pounds each
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns
8 cups veal stock
3 cups dry red wine
2 heads garlic, halved crosswise
4 carrots cut into large dice
1 large onion, peeled, cut into about 8 wedges
1 cup crushed tomatoes
6 cloves, smashed garlic
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
6 bolitos chorizo, casing removed
1/2 pound dried hominy
1/2 pound green peas
Salt to taste
Bouquet garni – parsley, thyme, bay leaf
For the hominy – 1 white onion, 1 carrot, 1 bay leaf and 1 whole clove
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Season the shanks with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven heat the oil until hot. Sear the shanks on all sides until golden brown. Remove all shanks from pot. Add chorizo and cook until done. Add the carrots, onions, garlic and peppercorns. Sauté until the vegetables are just soft. Place the shanks back in the pot with the crushed tomatoes, bouquet garni, stock and wine. Bring to a simmer.
Cover and place the pot in the oven and cook, turning the shanks every 1/2 hour for about 1-½ hours. Add the hominy and green peas and continue cooking for about ½ an hour more – the meat should be very tender but still on the bone.
To prepare the hominy began by soaking it overnight. Before starting your shanks place the hominy in a pot with 4 times the amount of water, the onion – stuck with the clove, carrot and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until it is just tender. Discard the vegetables and liquid and add to the recipe when called for.