My first experience with Lamb Shanks was when I was working at a Greek Restaurant, those Greeks could really cook Lamb!
One of the daily specials was Lamb Shanks and Macaroni. Their version was rich and full flavored with the taste of a tomato sauce and a touch of cinnamon.
I give you the option here to add cinnamon if you like, but stayed true to the red wine rosemary braised version.
This is a timeless dish that is great for those lazy Sunday afternoons or even as a departure from the traditional Leg of Lamb.
The sauce this creates is wonderful and will go great with the sides I have suggested. What's great about this dish is that the leftovers may be tossed with your favorite pasta, you simply add some fresh mushrooms or peas and you have a wonderful pasta creation as well.
You will find that there is a similarity in the ingredients and procedure when you compare this to the preparation of Shortribs. This is because both recipes feature the braising cooking method.
4 frenched Lamb Shanks
To season the Lamb Shanks
Fresh cracked Black Pepper and Kosher Salt
1/2 bunch fresh Thyme picked clean
1/2 bunch fresh Rosemary picked clean and chopped
Flour to lightly coat the Lamb Shanks
1/4 inch dice all the following vegetables and chop the garlic
1 large Yellow Onion, chopped large
2 ribs Celery, chopped large ( or you may use fennel bulb)
2 peeled Carrots cut in chunks
4 cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed
Olive Oil (to brown the Lamb Shanks)
You’re braising liquid
2 cups chopped Plum Tomatoes
2 to 3 cups Cabernet Wine
2 cups Chicken stock (homemade or low sodium purchased)
2 Bay leaves
Water to replenish evaporation during the cooking process
To finish your presentation
Fresh sprig of Rosemary
First you want to pat dry the Lamb Shanks of any excess moisture with a paper towel. Season each generously with salt, fresh cracked black pepper, rosemary and thyme. Coat a roasting pan or electric skillet (set at 400 degrees) big enough
to fit all the meat and diced vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat on the stove.
Lightly coat the seasoned Lamb with flour then add the seasoned floured Shanks to the pan and brown very well on all sides, about 3 minutes per side, this depends on the heat of your pan. Do not stuff the pan with or they won't brown. Better to cook in separate batches if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. ( if using an electric skillet you are already there at 400 degrees F.)
When the Lamb Shanks are browned all around remove them from the pan. Leave the fat in the pan to help cook your vegetables, add a drizzle of olive oil, bring up to temperature and add your chopped vegetables.
Your Lamb Shanks were seasoned but not your vegetables so proceed to season your vegetables with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper and if you like a touch of cinnamon.
Cook down your vegetables till they begin to caramelize, there will be a natural glaze of browned vegetable and meat juices on the bottom of your pan (this is a good thing to happen!)
Now time to de-glaze
Add your Cabernet and chopped tomatoes along with the bay leaf and bring to a simmer scraping the bottom to assure all the caramelized vegetables and meat juices are returned into the braising liquid.
The whole process will take a few minutes and will result in a reduction of the braising liquid, don’t worry that’s why you are adding the Chicken stock.
Return the seasoned browned Lamb Shanks to the pan and add 2 cups of Chicken stock or enough stock where they are nearly covered.
Cover the roasting pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours ( or cover your electric skillet and reduce the heat down to a simmer.)
Check periodically while cooking and add water if needed to keep the liquid level just under the Lamb Shanks.
Halfway during cooking you will want to turn the them over to allow even cooking and tenderness.
When braising in the oven: during the last 20 minutes you will want to remove the lid, this will give them a wonderful caramelized crust on the exterior and also reduce the braising liquid to a finished sauce. (this step is not possible if you are using a electric skillet, your Lamb Shanks will still be moisture in texture) When done the meat should be very tender and pull easily from the bone, but not soft and have a nice bite.
Serving and Accompaniments
I recommend serving your Lamb Shanks with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, truffled mashed potatoes, polenta, or pull the meat and toss it with sautéed mushrooms and Parparadelle pasta. Extra Lamb Shanks may by be cleaned and minced and added into pasta fillings for Ravioli and Tomato sauces as well!
If cooking your Lamb Shanks in advance, remove them when finished cooking, separate the broth, and wrap them individually when cooled. When cooking to order heat a sauté pan with some olive oil. Place the refrigerated Lamb Shank in the hot sauté pan and sear both sides. Add some of the Sauce, some water, and a pat of unsalted butter. Cover and bring to temperature (165) or place the entire sauté pan in a preheated 375 F. degree oven until the Lamb Shanks are hot and glazed.
Finish the plating with a sprig of fresh Rosemary