A cold January makes us hungry. It is the month for big appetites and rich food, for soups and stews. Winter also makes us want to connect and appreciate the landscape around us in a bare and fundamental way. It is for this reason that I would like to share with you the recipe for Stinco d’agnello della Valle d’Itria, a dish from the winter menu of Roberto’s that captures both the essence of winter, and the sense of “terroir” or that spirit of belonging to a particular geography.
This lamb recipe is from the southern Italian region of Apulia, a region that may not yet have achieved complete industrialization (somehow like Romania), however, its valleys and undulating plateaus produce a wealth of wheat, figs, grapes, olives, almonds and tomatoes, exactly as they did in the Middle Ages. If Italian cuisine is sustained by the quality of its produce, then the cuisine from Apulia thrives on it!
Let’s get immersed a little into the technical concerns regarding stewing and braising. Tender cuts (those that lack connective tissue like fillet steak or sirloin) are suitable for faster cooking (like grilling) and can be served rare or pink, however those cuts with connective tissue (shoulder or lower legs) need to be cooked longer in order to soften up the collagen. Lamb shanks are a prime example of these cuts and need to be cooked in a moist environment be it wine or water, or both. Furthermore, there are differences between stewing and braising. While stewing we add a larger amount of liquid than when we braise. The end result of braised meat is a supremely concentrated “sugo” or “jus” that deliciously combine the flavors of meat, vegetables, wine, herbs and spices added during the cooking process.
Our stinco d’agnello is served with winter vegetables and some white beans, and a little spinach, although Apulians would serve it with some wild winter cabbage or turnip tops (cima di rapa).
Originally from Venezuela Chef Franz Conde’s professional development was helped greatly by gastronomic giants such as Patrick Dwyerand Armando Scannone, who he had the privilege of working with.
Chef Franz Conde is Executive Chef at the Athénée Palace Hilton Bucharest following nine years at Hilton Amsterdam. In the Netherlands he developed and launched the menu and the concept of Roberto’s Amsterdam restaurant and his cookbook Roberto’s Pura Cucina Italiana was published.
PREPARATION TIME: 3+ hours
QUANTITY: 4 people
- 4 lamb shanks
- 2 onions, cut in half
- 2 carrots, peeled and left whole
- 1 head of garlic, sliced in half
- 2 ribs of celery
- 8 stems of parsley
- 60 ml of olive oil
- 1 bottle of full bodied red wine. Feteasca Neagra, for example
- 2 cups of cooked white beans
- 1/2 kg. of green winter cabbage, like cavolo nero, kale, Savoy cabbage, boerenkool, or similar
- salt and black pepper
- On a roasting pan, place the lamb shanks, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley stems. Season with some salt and pour the olive oil over.
- Roast in the oven at 175° for about 20 minutes, until the meat and vegetables are light golden.
- Pour in the bottle of wine and add some water until the lamb is half covered with the liquid.
- Cover loosely with aluminum foil and braise at 150° for about 3 hours, or until the lamb is completely tender.
- Make sure to check on the liquid every 30 minutes or so. Add water as needed to keep the lamb partially covered, turning the shanks every time you top the liquid up to the right level.
- Once the lamb is tender, remove the aluminum foil and continue baking to reduce the liquid to a “sugo”, glazing the shanks constantly to ensure that they don’t become dry and to intensify the taste of the meat with the cooking liquid.
- Adjust for salt and pepper
- Serve on a deep plate, together with some white beans and sautéed winter cabbage.
- Drink a deep, full-bodied red wine with this dish.
You can read another one of Chef Conde’s recipes – Risotto with Alaskan King Crab – here.