Side Dish

Braising!

Scott Staples revises his menu regularly with the seasons, but the food at Restaurant Zo뼯B> has a consistent tone. If one had to come up with a label, "High Comfort" might do: sumptuous food with roots in thrifty peasant kitchens where nothing goes to waste. Braising is classic peasant cooking. Slow simmering in savory broth is a terrific way to tenderize cheaper but tougher cuts, like the fibrous, ligament-laced segment of the lower leg called the shank. But by the time Staples opened Zo묠shank was getting fashionable and commanding significantly higher prices at the meat market. On a visit to his butcher in search of undiscovered braising bargains, Staples soon found one, but it presented a problem in nomenclature. "You put 'braised lamb neck' on the menu, and a lot of people are going to pass right by," Staples says. "But when we started simply calling it 'braised lamb,' it moved just fine, and people liked it so much that it didn't bother them when they found out what it was made from." Meats for braising may be less expensive, but they take a lot of time to prepare. Staples' recipe calls for browning the lamb in a dab of bacon drippings, then browning aromatic vegetables in the same pot (deglazed with red wine and balsamic vinegar), followed by a good hour of simmering in a blend of chicken and veal stock, and then the lamb goes back in to cook for hours more. Zo렣harges $18 for its braised lamb with a root-vegetable grating and roasted tomato tart, but Staples doesn't mind offering tips if you want to try to reproduce the dish at home. One problem with that: Like most true chefs, Staples believes cooks ideally should use the same wine in cooking a dish that they plan to serve with it. A dish as luscious as lamb neck Staples-style asks for a first-rate merlot like a single vineyard Andrew Will or a Bordeaux-style red like Delille's D2. Maybe your guests deserve a $40-and-up bottle; but if the stew pan gets a splash, there won't be enough for them to share. Luckily, some very fine Washington wines are available now at near-budget prices. Staples suggests checking out the 1999 Hedges Cellars Three Vineyards Estate ($18.50) or 2000 CMS Red ($11.50)—of which wine merchant Dan McCarthy writes in his latest newsletter, "We dare you to find better reds for the money anywhere in the world." rdowney@seattleweekly.com

 
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