Do you guys ever watch the show Chopped? I have to confess, it’s kind of a guilty pleasure of mine.
If you aren’t familiar with the show, it goes like this: four chefs compete to create an appetizer, an entre, and a dessert, using mystery ingredients given to them in a basket. They don’t know what those ingredients are ahead of time, and more often than not they are unusual things that they may not be familiar with at all.
Each round the chefs must create a dish in a limited amount of time, while incorporating these basket ingredients in some way. When they’re done, they get judged by a panel of celebrity chefs, and the person who created the weakest dish gets “chopped”. The rest move on to another round, and another basket of ingredients. Last man standing wins.
I don’t know why, but I absolutely love seeing what’s in those baskets and coming up with my own hypothetical dishes. I like seeing what the chefs make, but also thinking about what I would do in their shoes, and how I would handle those strange and unusual ingredients.
You can imagine how excited I was, then, when I first discovered Foodie Dice. Foodie Dice is like a basket of mystery ingredients right at your fingertips. Each die has a different ingredient on it — give them a roll, and you’ve got the basis for a whole meal.
The beauty of it is, you can follow your roll exactly, or just use it as inspiration. If you’re feeling in a rut, these will pull you out. If you’re looking for a challenge, or a step outside your comfort zone, you’ve got it. Which is exactly how this braised lamb with polenta came about. Lamb isn’t a piece of meat I’m very familiar with, and it probably isn’t something I would choose on my own… but prompted by the roll of the dice, I came up with a meal that I loved.
Braised lamb shanks with rosemary, over a bed of creamy polenta, garlic roasted mushrooms, and a quick-pickled salad of fennel and green apple to bring a little brightness to the party.
This dish was a home run. Braising the lamb made it tender enough to eat with a fork, and the mushroom and polenta alone were almost too good for words. If lamb isn’t your thing, you could easily serve the mushrooms and polenta just as they are, or as a side to another dish.
This was the first meal I made with my Foodie Dice, but I know it won’t be the last. Just looking at the dice gives me all kinds of tasty ideas.
But you guys, I am so excited about these dice, I couldn’t keep them all to myself. The first thing I did when I got them was contact the company to ask if I could do a giveway… and of course, they said yes!
All you have to do is sign in to the Rafflecopter below, and follow the instructions there. The giveaway will run from now until midnight on Friday, Febuary 28th, and I’ll choose a winner at random on March 1st. I’ll contact the winner, and they’ll have 48 hours to claim their set of Foodie Dice, or else another winner will be chosen.
(This giveaway is limited to the U.S. only — sorry, my Canadian friends.)
Have you entered the giveaway? Okay, now on to the recipe!
Braised Lamb with Creamy Polenta, Garlic Roasted Mushrooms, and Fennel Salad
serves 2 with plenty of leftovers
For the lamb
2 lamb shanks
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped, divided
1 tsp. fennel seeds, ground
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
3-4 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup red wine
3-4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 14oz. can diced tomatoes
Optional: 1 TBSP butter + 1 TBSP flour, to make a gravy with the sauce
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Using a paring knife, make a few shallow incisions along the length of each lamb shank, being careful to cut just through the membrain.
3. In a small dish, mix together the salt, 1 tsp. rosemary, fennel, and pepper. Divide the mixture and rub liberally over both lamb shanks.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, and sear the lamb shanks on all sides until browned.
5. Remove the lamb and set aside. Add the onions to the dutch oven, and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic, the rest of the rosemary, and the paprika, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
6. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Let cook for 1-2 minutes.
7. Return the lamb shanks to the pot, and add the stock and diced tomatoes. The liquid should just barely reach the top of the meat — if it doesn’t, add a bit more stock as needed.
8. Cover and place in the oven on the center rack. Let cook for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is tender.
Optional: Once done, remove the lamb from the pot and set aside. Strain the the liquid in the pot and discard the solids. In a sauce pan, whisk together 1 TBSP butter and 1 TBSP flour, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the strained liquid back to the pot, whisking continuously, and cook until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the mushrooms
4 cups (about 8oz) mixed mushrooms, sliced
3 TBSP butter, melted
1 TBSP olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Big pinch of kosher salt, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (or bake mushrooms while the lamb is in the oven).
2. In a 9x5inch baking dish, toss the mushrooms, butter, olive oil, garlic, and salt together. Spread into an even layer and cover tightly with aluminum foil (or a lid, if you have one).
3. Bake on the lower rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and wilted.
For the polenta
2 cups water
2 cups milk
2 TBSP butter, divided
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1. In a saucepan, melt 1 TBSP butter over medium heat. Saute garlic for 1-2 minutes, then add the water, milk, and salt. Bring to a boil.
2. Once boiling, hisk in the polenta and turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta is thick and creamy, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the freshly grated parmesan, and the second TBSP of butter, and remove from heat.
For the quick-pickled fennel salad
1 medium fennel bulb (reserve the fronds for garnish)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 medium green apple, sliced into matchsticks
1. Trim the stalks off the fennel bulb, and wash the bulb to remove any dirt. Using a sharp knife or mandolin slicer, cut the bulb into thin slices and set aside in a non-metalic bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Heat over low, swirling the pan until the sugar and salt have dissolved and the vinegar is warm, but not boiling. Remove from the heat, and pour over the fennel slices. Mix to combine, and let sit for 10-15 minutes, or until the vinegar mixture has cooled completely. Strain the vinegar away.
3. Slice the green apple into very fine matchsticks, and toss with the pickled fennel. Garnish with fresh fennel fronds.