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Braised lamb shank ravioli with caramelized onions, lamb jus and shaved parmesan

This combination is superb. When you mix the braised shanks with caramelized onions and add some of the rich, delicious jus to the filling, you don't even need sauce for the dish; the ravioli are amazing on their own.

You also have the choice to simply use the shanks as a main course with mashed potatoes or, even better, creamy polenta.

Servings: Makes about 40 ravioli

lamb shanks

2 pounds lamb shanks

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

3 whole cloves garlic

1 cup ruby port

1 cup red wine

4 cups beef or veal stock

4 sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

caramelized onions

¼ cup vegetable oil

3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced

7 sprigs thyme tied in a bundle

Ravioli dough

14 ounces all-purpose flour

14 ounces semolina

Pinch of salt

16 large egg yolks

1 to 4 whole eggs

1½ teaspoons olive oil

1 whole egg, beaten

½ teaspoon water

Semolina or cornmeal for dusting

Method

lamb shanks

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Trim excess fat from lamb shanks and discard. Sprinkle both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high. Sear shanks for five to seven minutes or until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Pour off all but one tablespoon fat from the pan and decrease the heat to medium. Add shallots and garlic, and cook for two minutes. Add port and wine, stirring to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add stock, thyme, bay leaves and browned lamb shanks, and bring to a boil.

Cover Dutch oven with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and use a knife to pierce five or six holes to allow steam to escape.

Place in the oven and bake, turning meat occasionally, for four to five hours or until meat is falling off the bone. Remove from the oven and allow shanks to cool in the liquid for an hour. Reserve cooking liquid to make ravioli jus.

caramelized onions

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan on medium. Sauté onions and thyme until onions are soft and transparent. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring with wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent burning, for eight to 10 minutes or until onions are caramelized. When onions turn dark brown, remove from heat. Discard thyme. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow onions to cool, then place in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.

Combine shredded lamb shanks and caramelized onions.

Ravioli

Place flour, semolina and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty kitchen mixer with a dough hook. On a slow speed, incorporate egg yolks one at a time, followed by one whole egg. Test dough by squeezing some of the mixture in your hand. If it stays together, do not add more whole eggs. If it does not stay together, incorporate one more whole egg and test. Keep adding and testing one whole egg at a time as needed.

When dough is ready, add oil and knead. It should form dough that is not too wet or too sticky. If mixture is too liquid, add more flour.

Gently knead dough on a lightly floured surface and form into two cylinders that are three inches thick. Cut each cylinder into four equal portions. Wrap the eight portions in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for an hour.

Roll out each portion of dough in a pasta machine, according to the manufacturer's instructions, to form a sheet about 1/16 inch thick. The sheet should be large enough to go into a ravioli mould. As the sheets of dough are rolled out, cover them with a clean cloth so they won't dry out. Make eight sheets of pasta.

Sprinkle the inside of the ravioli mould with a little flour to prevent sticking. Line the mould with one sheet of pasta, pressing gently into the spaces. Place the lamb and onion filling in a pastry bag with a round flat tip and pipe about one tablespoon into each square in the ravioli mould.

Place beaten egg and water in a bowl, whisk together to make an egg wash. Place another sheet of pasta on a clean surface. Use a pastry brush to paint one side with egg wash. Carefully place the pastry sheet, egg-wash side down, over the filled ravioli. Gently press along the seams to ensure the egg wash seals the pasta together and to get rid of air bubbles. Take a floured rolling pin and gently roll over the top sheet. This will help to mould the individual ravioli.

Cut off the outside edges of the dough and discard trimmings. Turn over the mould onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and remove all the ravioli in one piece. Place in the freezer. Repeat until all the pasta dough is used up. After being frozen, the moulded ravioli will break apart (each mould makes 10 ravioli). No cutting is necessary if done properly.

(The ravioli can be made ahead up to this point. Place in an airtight container; they will keep in the freezer for up to 2½ weeks.) Do not thaw before cooking. Place frozen ravioli in a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook for about 4½ minutes or until done.

Plate the ravioli, pour some reheated reserved jus and top with shaved parmesan cheese.

Rob Feenie is the Food Concept Architect at Vancouver's Cactus Restaurants Ltd.

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