Did you ever make a meal that was pick-up-your-plate-and-lick-it good? One that was a slam-dunk to serve for dinner? Would you like to? Come with me to my kitchen…We are slowing cooking Lamb Shanks for a tender and savory meat with a rich red wine infused gravy.
A little known fact about Asheville is that we have a good sized Greek population. The first Greek arrived here in 1900 and opened a restaurant. He was swiftly joined by others and in 1920 the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church was established to serve the Greek Orthodox population of Asheville.
Every year the church holds a Greek festival with dancing, music, arts and crafts and, most especially, food. People come from all over to dine on Greek dishes made by the ladies of the congregation. I am one of those people. I love their lamb shanks and I always make a point of going to the festival and buying a braised lamb shank, or two, to take home for my dinner. Except for the past two years I have missed the festival. September seems to be a busy month for my family and not-to-be missed occasions have called me away from Asheville over the festival weekend.
Then, the other day, I was in the Chop Shop Butchery, our local butcher shop, and they had lamb shanks. So I decided to make my own.
A lamb shank is a hard working muscle on the lower leg bone of the lamb. As such it needs long slow cooking but will result in tender meat with a rich gravy made from the braising liquids.
Start by rendering the fat from some bacon in an ovenproof pot, saving the bacon slices to be added to the braise. Brown the shanks all over, managing the heat so that the fat doesn’t burn. They should take four to six minutes a side.
Once the meat is browned, remove the shanks from the pot and pour off all but one tablespoon of fat. Add some diced carrots, onions and garlic to the pot and cook them over medium low heat until they have softened.
Now pour in some wine, increase the heat and boil the wine rapidly until it is reduced by half.
Add stock, herbs and tomato paste and stir it all together. Return the meat and bacon to the pot and bring it to a boil then cover it and place it in a slow oven. The braise will need to cook for two to three hours, until the meat is fork tender. You should turn the meat in the sauce once or twice while it is cooking.
You can stop here if you like. Let the pot cool then put it in the refrigerator until you want to serve it.
To serve the lamb shanks, warm the meat gently in the juices if it has been refrigerated.
Take the meat out of the pot and keep warm. Pour the braising liquids, the vegetables and bacon through a sieve into a medium pan. Press on the vegetables and bacon remaining in the sieve to get as much of the liquid out as possible. Some of the vegetables will also be pureed and passed through the sieve as you do this. Discard whatever is left in the sieve.
Heat the juices to a boil and let boil until thickened. Add salt to taste. If you feel like the gravy is not rich enough, you can stir in a spoonful or two of demi-glace.
I like to serve the lamb on the bone with rice and a good portion of the gravy. You can also remove the meat from the bone and stir it into the gravy to make a ragout which is wonderful over pasta.
Either way, your family will LOVE you!
BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
- 4 lamb shanks
- 4-6 slices of bacon
- 1 onion
- 2 carrots
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 cup hearty red wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leave
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Over a medium low heat, render the fat from the bacon in a Dutch oven. Once the fat is rendered remove the bacon and set aside.
- Brown the lamb shanks, one or two at a time, in the bacon fat. Regulate the heat so that the fat does not burn. This will take 4-6 minutes on side. Remove the shanks and pour off all the fat except one tablespoon.
- Dice the carrots and onions and mince the garlic. Return the Dutch oven to the heat and gently sauté the vegetables until they are soft, about 4 minutes.
- Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly until the wine has reduced by half. Add the stock, tomato paste, thyme and rosemary. Stir until blended. Add the lamb and bacon to the pan and bring the sauce to a boil.
- Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven. Cook for 2-2 ½ hours until the meat is fork tender and falling off the bone. Turn the meat once or twice during the cooking.
- Remove the shanks from the pot. Pour the cooking liquids, vegetables and bacon into a sieve over a medium pan. Push down on the vegetables and bacon to remove as much liquid as possible. Some of the vegetables may be forced through the sieve as well. Stir the puree into the sauce.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and boil for five minutes to thicken if needed.
- Add salt to taste.
- Return the meat to the sauce and warm through.
- Serve with rice or potatoes.