Tickling my Inner Caveman
By Deston Nokes
Rarely have I felt so conflicted on how to begin eating such a gorgeous mountain of lamb, pears and shallots. My inner Fred Flintstone wanted to grab the leg bone and gnaw with unrestrained relish, but the sophisticated ambiance of Portland’s Lauro Kitchen (www.laurokitchen.com), and my refined dinner companions kept my primitive urges in check.
We gathered to enjoy Braised Lamb Shank with Caramelized Pears and Shallots, which was created by Lauro Kitchen’s executive chef Jennifer Buehler. She recently received national acclaim for her artistry by the Pear Bureau Northwest. Chef Buehler is serving her winning recipe at Lauro Kitchen throughout March.
Our meal started with Cataplana, a tasty Portuguese seafood dish of roasted mussels, choriso, peppers, tomatoes and onions; finished in the Lauro Kitchen’s blue tile oven.
The lamb entrée came on a bed of couscous and was framed by carmelized red Anjou pears and shallots. Each bite of the tender meat brought a mouth-watering rush of spicy sweetness.
“It’s a Moroccan dish,” Buehler said. “I just strive to do the traditional dishes right – it’s not about fusion cuisine. The pears do provide a Pacific Northwest influence, and the tanginess is from the cranberries. The nutty flavor is from almonds and there are hints of saffron, ginger and cinnamon.
“I want the diners to wonder what they’re tasting. As you eat the dish, the different robust and sweet flavors are revealed.”
The lamb shank certainly was enough to capture the fancy of the Pear Bureau’s judges.
“It struck us as the quintesstial spring entree,” says Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO of Pear Bureau Northwest. “Her pairing of savory braised lamb shanks with sweet, carmelized pears is one of the best ways to enjoy a pear this spring.”
The recipe’s emphasis on pears is a natural for the region since Oregon and Washington pears account for 89 percent of the nation’s pears. The fruit’s primary plucking season is in August, but they are available year round. For more about the region’s pear industry, go to www.pearpanache.com.
Chef de Cuisine Jennifer Buehler has been cooking since she was a child in Independence, Missouri. After a quick stint in computer sales, Buehler returned to the kitchen, graduating from the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore.
With Lauro Kitchen’s Mediterranean cuisine, Buehler can draw upon many different styles and ingredients to create elegant masterpieces. Started in 2003 by famed Portland chef and restaurant entrepreneur David Machado, the Lauro Kitchen was one of the first establishments to kick off Portland’s east side dining craze.
“David was always a downtown guy, operating Pazzo’s and Southpark, but he believed he could succeed by bringing the same high-end cuisine, with lower prices, to the east-side neighborhoods,” said Lindsey McBride, Portland food publicist.
“Years ago, we had very few dining options. One had to go downtown for a nice night out.”
(Lauro Kitchen is known for its hour of happiness menu Monday through Sunday from 5 – 6 p.m., which features select dishes at 2003 prices. The restaurant’s towering chalkboard also lists new specials each day: A special pizza, fresh fish, cocktails and dessert. Lauro Kitchen’s dedicated pastry chef, Nancy Forrest, absolutely blew us away with a chocolate caramel tart topped with sprinkles of sea salt. )
For more information:
3377 SE Division #106
Portland, OR 97202
About the author:??Deston Nokes wrote a new iPhone app: PORTLAND ESSENTIALS. It highlights the best things to see, do and eat in Portland. With 210 entries and more than 1,500 photos, it’s a delicious resource for those who live here, and for those coming to visit. Entries are listed by category and each links to a Web site and phone number. It includes cost and operating-hour information. Best of all, each has its own GPS to guide you right to the door. This new application is for sale on iTunes for only $2.99.
Braised Lamb Shank with Caramelized Pears and Shallots
by Chef de Cuisine Jennifer Buehler
SERVES 4 to 6
4 lamb shanks, preferably raised in Oregon, 16 to 20-ounces each
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons saffron
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup whole almonds
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Caramelized Pears and Shallots
1 ounces (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 small, whole shallots
2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2″-thick wedges
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Couscous, as accompaniment
Parsley, to garnish
Plain yogurt, served on side
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare the lamb by seasoning liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy, wide saute pan until it is very hot, but not smoking. Brown the lamb shanks 2 at a time, turning them so that each side is dark golden brown and crusty, about 12 minutes total. Remove the shanks from the pan.
Reduce the heat under the saute pan to medium high and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Cook stirring frequently until the onions begin to caramelize slightly and pick up the color and scrapings leftover from browning the meat, about 5 minutes. Put the shanks in a deep, wide casserole, or a roasting pan. They should fit closely, in a single layer, leaving enough room in the pan to be covered with stock. A lid that fits well is helpful.
Add the sauteed onion, garlic and ginger to the lamb shanks along with the saffron, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, black and cayenne peppers, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and almonds. Cover the shanks with the chicken stock adding a bit of water if necessary to cover them completely. Cover tightly and braise for about 3-1/2 hours, adding the dried cranberries during the last 30 minutes. The lamb should be very tender and falling off the bone.
To finish the sauce, melt the butter in a saute pan with the oil over medium heat. If the shallots are larger than a small walnut, peel and separate into as many cloves as possible, or trim the root end without removing it completely. Halve or quarter the larger shallots; the root will hold the layers together. Add shallots to the pan and saute gently until they begin to soften slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the pear slices and sugar and continue to saute until everything is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add some chicken stock or water if the sugar begins to get dark.
Remove the lamb shanks from the braising liquid. Transfer the braising liquid to a separate saucepan (there should be about 6 cups), put the shanks back in the braising pan and keep them warm. Add the pears and shallots to the braising liquid and reduce slightly. It will already be fairly thick. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
To serve, while the sauce is reducing, put the couscous on a larger platter and arrange the lamb shanks on top. Garnish with some pear slices and shallots and spoon the reduced sauce over the meat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with plain yogurt on the side.