I will be the first to admit that I’m not a good cook. It’s not because I CAN’T be one; with effort, I suppose I could be at least a decent cook. It’s just not my thing. In fact, there is a small chance my kids’ tastebuds will be underdeveloped due to the lack of variety they experience. So when the folks at the American Lamb Board and Mountain States Rosen, the producers of Cedar Springs and Shepherd’s Pride American lamb, approached me to create a Cuban recipe for lamb to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, I obviously said “no.” I explained to them, as I just did to you, that I can’t cook to save my life.
They asked if my mom cooked and like me, she is not gifted in this area, but Elvira? Oh, Elvira can cook. And since she is my father’s caretaker, she is family. I called them back and took the assignment. I received compensation and was given four pieces of lamb shank to create a typical Cuban dish. Though this is a sponsored post, as usual, all opinions are my own. This is our story.
I love lamb. Though it is part of the Cuban cuisine I grew up with, I actually learned to love it while living in Morocco (a whole ‘nother story), but suffice to say that since I was a teenager, lamb has been a part of my diet. In addition to its interesting flavor, it’s packed with protein, omega 3’s, B vitamins, zinc and iron. Pound per pound, lamb has more of the good stuff and on average, only 8 grams of fat per 3-oz serving.
My kids are big fans too. In fact, our monthly visit to a favorite Spanish restaurant includes “Chuletitas de Cordero,” aka, lamb chops. Those are instantly devoured.
But it’s one thing to eat lamb at the restaurant, which is where most of my lamb eating is done, and it’s quite another to cook it. Or so I thought.
Elvira, my mom, and I scoured old Cuban recipe books, looking for a traditional recipe but though there were lots of delicious dishes, none of them really appealed to us. We decided to go rogue and create our own, and that’s how “Asado de Cordero en Cazuela” was born. I just call it: Elvira’s Lamb Shank.
The lamb shanks we received were large and juicy. Cedar Springs and Shepherd’s Pride American lamb is homegrown by multi-generational family ranchers in the US, and it’s all natural, with no antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones used in lamb production.
Elvira said we should marinade the shanks overnight with typical Cuban seasoning. In the supermarket you can buy a bottle of this premade seasoning called “Mojo.” Though I use it almost daily, preparing a recipe using the bottled Mojo is like making a recipe for pasta but using a preseasoned tomato sauce. So nope, we made our own version of Mojo and it was easier than I thought. The only chopping needed was the garlic.
We made the marinade and let the shanks absorb all the flavors overnight. I came back to my mom’s house the next day to begin part two.
This was where the fun began as things got lost in translation. My mother tried to explain how to “quemar la cazuela” which literally means “burn the pan,” but I am guessing it’s more like browning the lamb. To do it “a la mom”, we first placed some grapeseed oil in the pan and fried two minced garlic cloves until they were toasty brown.
Then we removed the garlic, and leaving the stove on high heat, we added the lamb shanks and heard major sizzling action. We added a few drops of water to keep the meat from sticking and rotated the shanks to brown the lamb on all sides.
Once browned, we added the remaining marinade, onions, green pepper and the wine to the pan.
Here was the hardest part of cooking the shanks—getting Elvira to actually measure what she put in so we could make the recipe just right for you! Her favorite measurement was “ al ojo.” Basically, she would tell me to eyeball it, but knowing that I have no sense for this stuff, she finally conceded to measuring.
Once everything was in the pan, we covered it, set the heat on low, and enjoyed the rest of the wine with the family.
You could adapt this recipe to a slow cooker much the same way. Just brown the shanks before placing it in. With this method, you would get more sauce than what we got on the skillet.
The shanks took about four hours to fully cook, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. Not only did the kitchen smell like my childhood, but the shanks were delicious.
At the lunch table, we served the chops with rice and beans as any self-respecting Cuban would. I also added an avocado seasoned just with olive oil and lime (my fav) and there you go—a perfectly healthy, traditionally Cuban, and absolutely delicious meal.
Interested in having a chef prepare a lamb based dinner party for six? Giveaway starts next week so make sure to follow @TriathlonMami on Twitter to get all the details …
Asado de Cordero en Cazuela
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Marinade time: 4 hours – overnight
Cook time: 4 hours
4 Cedar Springs or Shepherd’s Pride lamb shanks
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces orange juice
2 limes, juiced
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
2 tablespoons parsley, dried
1-2 tablespoons grape seed oil
2 medium sized onions, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 cup red wine (adjust to taste)
Black pepper, to taste
To make the marinade:
- In a large container, combine 2 minced garlic cloves, orange juice, lime juice, cumin, oregano, salt and parsley. Mix well.
- Place the lamb in the container and coat well with marinade.
- Place in fridge overnight and let lamb marinade for 4-12 hours.
To make the lamb:
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat grapeseed oil over medium high-high heat. Careful not to burn them, brown 2 cloves of minced garlic then remove from pan once they are toasty brown.
- In the same skillet, brown shanks on all sides over high heat until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add a few drops of water to keep the lamb from sticking.
- Add the marinade liquid, onion, green pepper and wine to the pan with the browned lamb shanks or to a slow cooker. Cover and cook over low heat for about 4 hours, or until lamb is cooked to medium (160°F).
- Serve with rice and beans. Enjoy!
To locate a grocer near you so you too can enjoy the great American lamb that we did here, go to mountainstatesrosen.com.
Or visit AmericanLamb.com to learn more about how American lamb is different. And better. (I can certainly attest to that!)