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Pomegranate-Marinated Lamb Shanks with Toasted Barley and Kale Ragout

This richly flavored cold-weather dish, as homey as it is sophisticated, sets the stage for long talk and good wine. Pomegranate juice tenderizes the meat and gives it a lovely flavor.

3 cups bottled pomegranate juice (sold in quarts at health food and Middle Eastern markets)
1 bunch fresh mint leaves
4 large heads garlic, two separated into peeled cloves and peeled, and two halved crossways
1/4 cup homemade grenadine, or 2 tablespoons honey
6 to 8 meaty lamb shanks (1 pound each), well-trimmed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
3 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 cups dry red wine
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1 can chicken broth and 1/2 can water, about 2 cups total

Prepare the lamb shanks: In a blender or food processor, puree the pomegranate juice with the mint, peeled garlic cloves and grenadine or honey. Put the lamb shanks in a large glass or ceramic dish and pour the marinade on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours, turning shanks occasionally.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy, nonreactive skillet. Drain the shanks and pat dry. Season them liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Brown 2 or 3 at a time over moderately high heat, turning once. Transfer to a roasting pan just large enough to hold them all.

Reduce the heat under the skillet to moderate and stir in the carrots, onions and halved garlic heads. Cook until the onions just soften, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to moderately high and scrape up any browned bits. Boil until the wine is reduced to 1 cup, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and pour the mixture over the lamb shanks. Add the chicken stock and enough water to submerge the shanks by two-thirds. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the roasting pan with foil and braise the shanks in the oven until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bones, about 3 hours. Can be prepared the day before and reheated.

Barley and Kale Ragout

1 1/2 cups barley
3 cups water
2 bunches dark green (Laciato) kale

In a deep medium skillet, toast the barley over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add 3 cups water, season with salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until the barley is tender and all the water has been absorbed, about 40 minutes. Remove center ribs from kale and cut leaves into strips 2 inches wide. Transfer the lamb shanks (reheated if prepared earlier) to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Add the halved garlic heads to the sauce in the roasting pan.

Stir in the kale and simmer till wilted, about 5 minutes. Set aside 3/4 cup sauce. Stir in the barley. Lay shanks on top. Spoon the barley and kale ragout onto large plates and set one lamb shank on top. Spoon reserved sauce over the meat.

Anne Rosenzweig

Thursday, December 06, 2001

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