As the cold of winter settles in, the desire for long, slow braises and rich, hearty stews builds. Cooked until the meat slips casually from the bone and wears a luscious, addicting and dark sauce, these lamb shanks answer the call for stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. The shanks will make you want to embrace winter in it’s full force, in all it’s snow-adorned glory, so that you can continue to eat in this style all season long.
I dressed these up in a Mediterranean style, adorned with bright pomegranate aerils and served over a golden bed of cous cous studded with sweet golden raisins, toasted pine nuts and fresh, verdant parsley. I strained the braising liquid and continued to reduce it until it was velvety thick and concentrated with flavor. The final drizzle of sauce was like the bow on top of a gift.
*Using the lamb shanks and the cooking method as a template, you could turn this into a choose-your-own-adventure type recipe. They would be equally delicious braised with hearty herbs like rosemary and served over creamy polenta or mashed potatoes. Follow your stomach and don’t be afraid to be playful!
Braised Lamb Shanks
- 2 lamb shanks, trimmed of tough silver skin (here is a good tutorial if you’ve never done it!)
- 3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 red onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 4 large strips orange peel
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon each whole mustard, fennel and cumin seeds
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
- olive oil, salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 35o degrees.
Season the lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a cast iron dutch oven over medium heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pot, and sear the lamb shanks until they are golden brown on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Add the whole mustard, fennel, cumin and the cardamom to the pot and toast until fragrant. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and orange peel and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Stir in the tomato paste and saute for about a minute. Tuck the shanks back into the pot and pour over the wine and the chicken stock. Give it a big stir, put the lid on and pop it into the oven.
Cook at 350 for two hours, lower the heat to 250 and cook another 30-45 minutes until the meat is falling easily from the bone and the braising liquid has significantly reduced.
Set aside the lamb shanks again and pour the rest of the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer. Return to the pot over medium heat and reduce until it will coat the back of a spoon. Taste and season if necessary with salt and pepper.
I served the shanks over a thick swoop of tart yogurt, cous cous livened up with lots of fresh parsley, golden raisins and toasted pine nuts and finished it off with more fresh parsley and fresh mint, pomegranate aerils and a final spoonful of that luscious reduced braising liquid.