Braised Lamb Shanks With Fresh Herbs
Bone-in lamb shanks are perfect for braising. The marrow in the bones releases into the sauce, deepening its flavor, while the tough meat softens into perfect tenderness during the long, slow cooking. In this recipe (very loosely based on a Georgian stew called chakapuli) the shanks are cooked with a prodigious amount of fresh herbs, adding fragrance and body. You can braise this several days in advance, then reheat it on the stove. The flavors get even better after having a chance to meld. Just don’t add the final herbal garnish until right before serving. A little bread, polenta or rice would be just the thing to soak up the heady sauce, though a spoon works, too.
- Serves: 6 persons
- 1tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5pounds lamb shanks (5 to 6 shanks)
- Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
- 1large sweet onion (white or red), peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 8garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2teaspoons coriander seeds, coarsely cracked
- ¼teaspoon cayenne
- ¼teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 ½cups dry white wine
- 2bunches scallions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
- 2cups chopped spicy greens such as mustard greens, mizuna, arugula, or radish tops
- 1 ½cups chopped cilantro (tender stems and leaves only)
- 1cup chopped parsley (tender stems and leaves only)
- 1cup chopped mint or dill or a combination (tender stems and leaves only)
- ½cup chopped tarragon (tender stems and leaves only)
- ½cup chopped chives
- About 1 cup chicken or lamb stock, or water
- 2to 3 tablespoons dried currants (optional)
- 3tablespoons unsalted butter
- Fresh lemon juice, as needed (optional)
Step 1In a large bowl (or covered container) large enough to hold the lamb, mix together salt, paprika and pepper. Add shanks and rub all over with spice mix. Cover and marinate for at least 4 hours (or up to 24 hours) in the refrigerator.
Step 2Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat a very thin film of olive oil. Sear the lamb in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, adding more oil as needed. Take your time with this, making sure to brown the lamb all over. Transfer browned lamb to a roasting pan.
Step 3When all the lamb is cooked, add onion to empty skillet and cook it in the lamb drippings, adding a more oil if pan looks dry, until limp and lightly browned at the edges, about 5 minutes.
Step 4Add garlic, coriander, cayenne and allspice and cook until the garlic is very fragrant and opaque, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Pour in wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits on bottom of pan. Let mixture simmer until thickened and reduced by about a third (about 5 minutes). Pour over lamb.
Step 5In a bowl, toss together scallions, spicy greens, and herbs. Sprinkle lamb with half the herb mixture and set remaining half aside for serving. Cover pan with two layers of foil (or heavy-duty foil) and bake until meat is falling off the bones, 3 to 3 1/2 hours total, turning shanks every hour so they cook evenly. If the bottom of the pan starts to dry out before lamb is done, add a few tablespoons of the stock or water to moisten it.
Step 6When shanks are tender, transfer to a heated serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm. If you like, at this point you can tear the meat off the bones; or, serve the shanks bone-in.
Step 7On top of the stove, heat roasting pan over medium-low heat. If pan is dry, add remaining stock or water and bring to a simmer. (If drippings in pan seem very fatty, spoon off some of the fat.) Add currants and bring drippings to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits on bottom of pan.
Step 8Once the liquid is reduced to a thin glaze, add butter to pan along with all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining herbs (save those 2 tablespoons for garnish). Whisk sauce until smooth, then taste and add lemon juice as needed. Pour sauce over the lamb and garnish with chopped herbs. Serve immediately.