Lamb Shanks With Apricots and Chickpeas
This stew, inspired by Moroccan tagines, is meant for lamb shanks, but lamb shoulder, cut in large chunks, would also work. As with most braises, this one improves after a night in the fridge, giving the flavors time to meld and deepen. You could even make it a few days before serving. The subtle commingling of onion, saffron and apricots is enchanting. Take the time to soak and cook dried chickpeas, if you can. Using canned is easier, but freshly cooked chickpeas taste far better (and their drained cooking liquid makes a delicious vegetarian broth).
- Serves: 4 persons
- About 4 to 5 pounds lamb shanks (4 total)
- Salt and pepper
- ¼cup olive oil
- 1large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 ½teaspoons grated garlic (from 1 large clove)
- 1dried bay leaf
- Large pinch of saffron
- 3tablespoons tomato paste
- 1tablespoon sweet paprika
- ½pound dried apricots (1 generous cup)
- 1pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (slice any larger end pieces in half lengthwise)
- 1(14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained (1 1/2 cups)
- ½cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
Step 1Season lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. Place in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with 6 cups water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a low simmer and cook, covered with lid ajar, for 1 hour. Remove shanks and reserve cooking liquid. Wipe out the pan. (You may cook the lamb shanks in advance, even a day ahead.)
Step 2Set Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon garlic, bay leaf, saffron, tomato paste and paprika. Stir together and let sizzle for 1 minute, then add reserved lamb broth and bring to a boil. Add lamb shanks and apricots, cover with lid ajar and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, until meat is very tender, nearly falling off the bone.
Step 3Remove shanks and place on a cutting board to cool. Add parsnips to simmering broth, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Taste broth and adjust seasoning. If necessary, reduce over medium-high heat to concentrate cooking juices.
Step 4When shanks are cool enough to handle, remove the bones (use your hands). Cut the meat into large chunks and return to the pot to warm through. Transfer meat and sauce to a serving platter.
Step 5To finish, warm remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic and let sizzle without browning, about 30 seconds. Add chickpeas and warm them through, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt, and toss with the chopped cilantro. Spoon chickpeas over lamb and sauce.