Braise Your Way to Lamb Shank Shangri La
Braising renders the most flavor and utmost tenderness from lamb shanks every time. Only moist heat, time and a little acid for tenderizing breaks down all that rough and tough cartilage into a glorious, creamy broth that serves as the base for an equally superior sauce when cooking ends. You can't get the best out of lamb shanks without a little dry heat though; meat just doesn't brown in a moist environment, so a hard, high-temperature sear comes first. After that, it's all about base flavors and secondary ingredients.
Cook lamb shanks at a low temperature with an acidic ingredient for best results.
As with most braises, you want to start with an aromatic base of mirepoix, the French trifecta of 2 parts onions to 1 part each carrot and celery, and a handful of foundational herbs and spices, such as parsley, thyme, bay leaf and black peppercorns. Then you can add your secondary ingredients like garlic, rosemary and maybe a touch of chili flakes to put all that lusciousness in context.
Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 8
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 lamb shanks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 rib celery, roughly chopped
- 10 garlic cloves
- 1/2 bottle dry red wine
- 3 cups low-sodium veal or chicken broth
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 4 parsley stems
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or other heavy-bottomed pan with a tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Season the lamb shanks to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Sear the lamb shanks until caramelized and golden brown, about 15 minutes total. Transfer the lamb shanks to a plate.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery, and saute until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking until the vegetables caramelize, about 5 more minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine. Return the lamb shanks to the Dutch oven, and add the broth, tomatoes, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf and black peppercorns.
- Bring the lamb shanks to a boil on the stove. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover.
- Braise the lamb shanks until tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove the lamb shanks and transfer them to a plate.
- Strain the liquid in the Dutch oven through a sieve and transfer it to a saucepan. Bring the braising liquid to a simmer.
- Roll the butter and flour into a ball, and whisk it piece-by-piece into the simmering liquid. Simmer the liquid until thickened and reduced by 1/3, about 15 minutes.
- Season the sauce to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange the lamb shanks on a serving platter, and drizzle with the sauce.
You can use a slow cooker for this dish if you want to make it super easy. Add the browned lamb shanks along with the secondary ingredients to the slow cooker. Set it on high and cook for 4 hours, or set it to low and cook for 7 to 8 hours.
If you don't have a Dutch oven, you can use a roasting pan. Brown the lamb shanks, mirepoix and garlic on the stove in a skillet, and transfer them to a deep roasting pan. Cover with aluminum foil, and braise in a 325F oven until tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Check the braising liquid halfway through cooking, and add water as needed to almost cover the shanks.