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Braised Lamb Knuckle with Quince Sauce and Autumn Vegetables
Winter is the season of braised meat. The secret of braising is pretty simple: use the cheap cuts with a lot of connective tissue and do not trim anything off of them. So ask your butcher please not to trim off anything at all. You can still cut it off on your plate, but if you braise meat long enough, the connective tissue will just disappear. Meat cooks a lot faster than the connective tissues, but if you braise your meat at low temperature for a long long time, the connective tissues are going to melt into the meat and turn the meat moist and soft. That is also the secret of all braised dishes and why they need so much time. I like to prepare them overnight in the oven. This way I don’t have to worry about any burnt parts and if I wake up during the night, I turn the meat around and go back to sleep. And I wake up in the morning with a wonderful scent of braised meat all over my flat.
My most favorite parts for braising are the cheeks and the knuckles (in Germany they are called “Haxen”) of beef, lamb, veal or pork, because they contain a lot of connective tissue. Knuckles are a very rustic dish when served on their bone. For a more refined plating I removed the bones from the braised knuckles and cut the meat into portions. Removing the bones should always be done while the meat is still hot and soft. Portioning is much easier when the meat is cold and the gelatin and fat hardened the meat. Glazing the meat during reheating in the sauce is also a step you don’t want to miss, because spooning the sauce from time to time over the meat creates a layer of very rich flavors. For the sauce I switched yet again the red wine to quince, which added the required acidity and also enriched the sauce with its unique flavor.
As garnish I used a wide range of colorful winter vegetables. While the yellow carrot, orange pumpkin, red beet and green Brussels sprouts taste just like what they are, I flavored the nashi pear with rooibos tea caramel and the parsley root puree with fresh cinnamon. All accompaniments paired great and also worked well with the braised lamb and the quince flavored sauce.
Braised Lamb Knuckle with Quince Sauce and Autumn Vegetables
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 9 hours
Total Time: 9 hours
Yield: 4 portions
2 lamb knuckles
300 g parsley root
1 large onion
50 g celery root
1 clove garlic
1 stalk celery green
3 stalks parsley green
1 red beet
100 g pumpkin or butternut squash
2 yellow carrots
4 Brussels sprouts
10 ml dry vermouth
1 nashi pear
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup rooibos tea
2 pieces orange zest
1 piece lemon zest
250 ml milk
2 cinnamon sticks
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
For lamb knuckle and the sauce
Wash the parsley root, orange carrot, onion and celery root. Dice 100g of the parsley root, cover the rest and set aside. Dice the carrot, onion and celery root. In a large pot brown the diced carrot, parsley root, celery root and onion on some olive oil in batches. Always add only a single layer of vegetables to the pot so it browns and doesn't cook, then set aside and continue with the next portion of vegetables. Wash the lamb knuckles and tap dry with kitchen paper. Roast the lamb knuckles on every side in some olive oil. Finely dice the tomato and roast in the pot until brown and caramelized. Add about 200ml water and scrape off the brown parts from the bottom of the pot. Add the roasted vegetables, 1 garlic clove, the celery and parsley greens, 1/2 diced quince with its skin and seeds, 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Rub the knuckles with salt and add them to the vegetables. Add water to cover the knuckles up to half. Cover with a lid and bake in the oven at 100°C / 210 F for 8 hours. After 4 hours carefully turn the knuckles.
Take out the knuckles from the pot and carefully remove the bones while still hot. Chill the knuckles to room temperature and cut into 4 generous portions. Strain the liquid from the pot and remove the fat. Reduce the stock over low heat until it starts to get syrupy. Add the 4 portions of lamb meat to the sauce and set aside.
For the cinnamon parsley root puree
Bring 250ml milk to a boil with 2 crushed cinnamon sticks and 1 piece orange and lemon zest. Remove from the heat and let steep for 1 hour at room temperature. Strain the milk through a fine sieve and discard the leftovers. Finely dice the reserved 200g parsley root. Add the parsley root to the milk with a pinch of salt, cover and cook at low heat until the parsley root gets very soft. Strain the milk and reserve. Blend the parsley root with 1 tbsp butter to a fine puree. Add as much cooking liquid as needed for a very smooth puree. Season with salt and nutmeg, then press the puree through a fine sieve and set aside.
For the autumn vegetables
Wash the red beet, wrap in aluminium foil and bake in the oven at 200°C / 390 F for an hour. Remove from the oven and chill to room temperature. Remove the foil, peel and cut cylinders using an apple core remover. Wash the apple core remover and cut cylinders from the yellow carrot and the pumpkin or butternut squash. Use the remaining cuts for another purpose. Blanch the yellow carrots for 1.5 minutes and the pumpkin for 1 minute in boiling hot salted water. Immediately chill in ice water. Drain well and set aside.
Wash the Brussels sprouts and take the leaves apart. Use the remaining center for another purpose.
For the nashi pear
Cook a fresh cup of rooibos tea. Meanwhile caramelize 1 tbsp sugar until deep brown and rapidly pour in the tea. Add 1 piece of orange zest and a pinch of salt. Peel the nashi pear, remove its seeds and cut into slices. Add the pear slices to the rooibos caramel and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Warm the lamb in its own quince sauce at low heat. Season with salt and pepper and regularly spoon the sauce over the lamb. Warm the parsley root puree over low heat, stirring occasionally. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a small pan and glaze the yellow carrot, pumpkin and Brussels sprouts leaves in it. Season with salt and pepper and add the dry vermouth. Warm the red beet cylinders in a separate pan in some butter and season with salt and pepper.
Place 1.5 tbsp parsley root puree on warm plates and spread across the plate using a comb-shaped dough scraper. Put some Brussels sprout leaves in one corner and add 3-5 slices of drained nashi pear on top. Place one yellow carrot, orange pumpkin and red beet cylinder next to the pear slices. Carefully lift up a piece of glazed lamb meat and place at the other end of the parsley root puree. Generously cover with the quince sauce.