LA Chefs’ Plates Braised Lamb Shank w. polenta by Chef Bruce Kalman

(Originally published July 26, 2014 on

At Union Pasadena whenever Chef Bruce Kalman breaks down a lamb he has the “Braised Lamb Shank with polenta” dish on his menu at his new restaurant in Pasadena. Since Kalman and his crew butcher nose to tail, they will have four shanks every time they butcher a lamb.

Chef Kalman notes, “I have probably made a braised lamb shank at every restaurant I have run, and it is one of the simplest, yet complex dishes to prepare. Every step of the process needs to be perfectly executed to achieve a flavorful, moist and tender result. This challenge is what I enjoy the most about the braise, when you remove the foil from the top of the pan after six to seven hours of slow cooking and the aroma hits you.”

Kalman purchases lamb from ReRide Ranch in nearby Lake Hughes, California. The polenta is milled for Union at Grist & Toll also located in Pasadena. Kalman stated that this polenta is “the best polenta” he has ever worked with as a chef.

Kalman also stated, “I love being able to work with amazing, fresh ingredients. Cooking lamb shanks that you cut yourself, as opposed to taking them out of a cryovac bag, makes a huge difference. Also knowing who raises and cares for the animals, and what they eat, is a privilege.”

The plating of this dish reminds Chef Kalman of eating in Florence where everything is very simply prepared and presented – a spoon of polenta, a whole lamb shank, a little gremolata and good olive oil.

Kalman concluded, “I always prefer a long and slow cooking method, it really gives you the ability to develop deep flavors. It also requires and lot of care and soul. The simplistic nature and bold flavors are the essence of what we do at Union.”

To try this dish or others on Union Pasadena‘s seasonal and market driven menu, please make reservations via Open Table directly or through Union Pasadena’s website. Union Pasadena is open for dinner seven days a week, and is located at 37 E. Union Street. Please also follow Union Pasadena on twitter and on facebook to get their latest updates.

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