Sunday Supper

Nutty, delicately sweet celery root is worth discovering

Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel, Celery Root and Olives
Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel, Celery Root and Olives
Sarah Shatz / Food52

Main dish

Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel, Celery Root and Olives

Braised lamb shanks are always flavorful and tender and make the perfect Sunday supper for cooler weather. Serve with bread to absorb the aromatic juices, and perhaps a green salad on the side. With aromas of tobacco, spice, and berries a Cabernet Franc from France's Loire Valley is a superb pairing for lamb.

4 lamb shanks

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 fennel bulb, diced small

1 softball-size celery root (celeriac), peeled and diced small

2 large shallots, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, and bay leaf tied together or wrapped in cheesecloth)

2 cups dry red wine

2 cups beef broth (either homemade or low-sodium canned)

1 cup green olives, pits in

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil

1 splash Ricard or Pernod licorice flavored liqueur (optional)

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (use a microplane if you can)

Salt and pepper the lamb shanks liberally. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Brown the lamb shanks all over. Take your time with this and get them really nice and brown. Remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.

Lightly brown the fennel, celery root, shallots and garlic in the pan used for the meat, about 5 minutes. Add the meat back to the pan. Add the bay leaf, bouquet garni, wine and broth. Cover the pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour.

Add the olives and sun-dried tomatoes to the pot. If necessary, add a little more wine or broth. Simmer, covered, an additional 30 minutes, or until the meat is nearly falling off the bone.

If you’d like to emphasize the fennel flavor and bring out the mellowness of the olives, add a splash of Ricard or Pernod. This really does enhance the dish and is very Mediterranean. Taste the sauce and add additional salt and/or pepper to taste. Just before serving, sprinkle the lamb with the lemon zest.

You can gently pull the meat off the bone and serve it as a stew, or as a sauce over pasta. You can also serve these on the bone as is, or over polenta. Be sure to mention to your diners that the olives contain pits! Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 319 calories, 38 percent calories from fat, 22 g fat, (3.9 g sat fat, 7.6g mono fat), 104 mg cholesterol, 33.8 g protein, 14.0 g carbohydrate, 3.7 g fiber, 202 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted from “The Food 52 Cookbook” by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs and the Food 52 community (Morrow) $35.

Celery is such a common ingredient that it's easy to overlook its bulbous cousin, celeriac, often called celery root. Its odd, gnarly shape hides delicately sweet and nutty flesh

Celeriac can be boiled, braised, steamed, roasted or eaten raw. And it’s a wonderful alternative to potatoes and other starches when roasted with meats, and is a perfect stand in for cabbage when shredded in salads and slaws. A European favorite, celeriac is so delicious that it is surprising that it is not more widely used in the United States.

Celeriac is available year round, but it is at its best this time of the year. Choose a firm root that feels heavy for its weight. The task of peeling and trimming this root is intimidating, but if you use a sharp chef’s knife to remove and discard the twisted upper section, the remaining root can be cut in half around the equator. Remove the thick skin from each half using a paring knife. Cut it into manageable chunks and quickly immerse in a bowl of acidulated water (water with a squeeze of lemon juice) to prevent browning before proceeding with your recipe.

Tips and Techniques

Abra Bennett added: Like most stews and braises, this tastes even better the next day, so make it ahead if you have the chance.

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