This is what I prepared for our secondo piatto for Easter dinner: lamb shank ‘Italian style’ sous-vide with white asparagus sous-vide. Both lamb and asparagus are perfect to celebrate Spring. I’ve blogged about lamb shank sous-vide before, and that was a very simple preparation with just a bit of thyme. Lamb shanks are amazing when cooked sous-vide for 48 hours at 62ºC/144ºF. They are pink, juicy, and very tender. (Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the inside of the meat, so you’ll have to take my word for it.) ChgoJohn’s recent post on braised lamb shanks on his great blog From The Bartolini Kitchens reminded me that I should prepare lamb shanks again, and the recipe I used here is almost the same as John’s mother’s recipe. Well, except for the sous-vide bit of course. The recipe is an Italian classic for braising: the meat is cooked with the holy trinity of onion, carrot, and celery, and wine.
White asparagus are a specialty of the Netherlands and they are best when very fresh. It is best to store them in the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp cloth. Cooked sous-vide they are tender and juicy but still have a nice bite to them as well. Their flavor is nicely sweet. White asparagus are actually the same as green asparagus, the only difference is that they grow underground. White asparagus need to be peeled all the way (except for the very tip) and only a very small part of the bottom (about 1 cm or 1/2 inch) needs to be cut off. They are usually steamed or boiled, but cooked sous-vide it is easier to keep them al dente and they retain more of their sweet flavor.
4 lamb shanks
2 celery stalks
3 cloves garlic
4 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp tomato paste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250 ml (1 cup) full-bodied red wine
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp lamb demi-glace (lamb stock reduced to 1/10)
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Once the oil is hot but not too hot, add the garlic cloves and tilt the pan so the garlic fries more quickly on all sides. Continue until the garlic turns golden (not brown!) and then discard the garlic.
If using a chamber vacuum sealer, wait until the lamb and the sauce have cooled off to at least room temperature, but preferably in the refrigerator. Vacuum seal the lamb shanks with the sauce. Use a ziploc bag and the water displacement method if you don’t have a chamber vacuum sealer. Heat up the sous-vide cooker to 62ºC/144ºF. Cook the lamb shanks for approximately 48 hours at 62ºC/144ºF.
Cook the asparagus sous-vide for 15 minutes at 85ºC/185ºF.
If you have ‘only’ one sous-vide cooker, it will be already occupied with the lamb shanks. There are two solutions for this:
- Use ‘stove pot’ sous-vide to cook the asparagus;
- Remove the lamb shanks from the sous-vide cooker when they are done and cook the asparagus in the sous-vide cooker while you finish the sauce and keep the lamb warm in the oven; add boiling water to the sous-vide cooker to quickly increase the water temperature.
After approximately 48 hours, take the lamb shanks out of the sous-vide cooker.
Reserve the sauce in a saucepan, and keep the lamb shanks warm in the oven (at around 100ºC/225ºF).
This is great with a dry pinot noir, such as a Spätburgunder from Germany or a Red Burgundy or Sancerre.
Two years ago asparagus were also on the menu, as I prepared asparagus risotto with goat cheese. This was also the first and only time I experimented with cooking risotto sous-vide, which I didn’t think was worth repeating.