- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

If you’re heading to the microwave less often, you’re not alone. Long, slow cooking techniques are gaining favor. Braising, especially, is becoming more popular, according to market researchers.

That’s news worth sharing, especially when the perception is that Americans only do speed cooking.

Apparently we’re getting more enjoyment from meal preparation than previously reported. Heating instant foods doesn’t provide the creative satisfaction we crave. What anticipation can develop, what aromas can fill the kitchen when dinner is a one-minute mix?

No wonder braising, a cooking method that calls for browning food, then simmering it in a small amount of liquid for a long time, is becoming more popular.

Braising brings out the robust flavor of tough meat cuts while tenderizing them. And if braising takes two hours instead of two minutes, that’s fine for those occasions when dinner isn’t rushed.

Try a braised entree during the summer when weekends tend to be less frantic. Put a dish on the stove top to cook while you’re doing a little gardening or catching up on your magazine reading.

The great thing about a braised dish is that it requires heat, but little attention. Shanks of beef, veal or lamb are great when braised. The meat falls from the bone in tender morsels, and the fat melts into the gravy.

This recipe for lamb shanks, flavored with tomatoes, olives and red wine, is a hearty dish that deserves space on your Sunday agenda along with a nap.

Lamb shanks with olives

1 large (1½-pound) lamb shank or 2 small (3/4-pound each) lamb shanks

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small red onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup dry red wine

1/4 teaspoon crushed dried oregano

3 plum tomatoes, cored and diced

1 cup chicken broth

1 bay leaf

½ cup sliced green pitted Italian olives

1 cup cooked rice or couscous

Coat lamb with flour and salt and pepper to taste. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed deep skillet. Brown lamb on both sides over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes total.

Remove lamb. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook until onion is limp and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add red wine. Scrape up any browned bits in skillet. Add oregano, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf and olives. Reduce heat to a simmer.

Return lamb shank and any collected juices. Cover skillet. Simmer for 2 hours, or until meat is just falling off the bone. Taste skillet gravy and correct seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf.

To serve, remove lamb from bone. Spoon rice or couscous onto 2 plates. Top with lamb and pass skillet gravy. If you prefer, bone lamb and return it to skillet. Spoon lamb and sauce over rice. Makes 2 servings.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons Inc.).


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