Lamb shanks are one of the first cuts of meat I learned how to cook. Years ago, I caught an episode of The Naked Chef where Jamie Oliver made lamb shanks. I was lying on the couch at two in the afternoon, as all good college students do, my school books were within reach but closed on the coffee table. Barely conscious I flipped through the channels, stopping when I hit Jamie. Having recently seen him on Oprah I was intrigued to see what he would make. Still half awake, and partially hoping this would lull me to sleep, I tuned in to see what he was making.
This guy has a ton of energy. So much in fact, that I got pulled into what he was making — lamb shanks. Never having made lamb of any kind before, but amazed by how easy he made it look, I resolved myself to make lamb shanks.
Then I rolled over and took a nap.
A year later when I was gifted a copy of the The Return of the Naked Chef I recognized his Spiced Lamb Shank recipe immediately and set about making it. Many years later I make lamb shanks frequently, they are one of my favorite comfort foods.
Lamb shanks really couldn’t be simpler or more rewarding to make. They like it low and slow, and I find braising them in wine always works. Ideally when you get the shank, have your butcher trim it for you. If you get it home and it is covered in fat or silver skin, you will want to take it off. Removing the silver skin isn’t that hard but it takes patience, and I recommend a sharp knife and steady hand. Once your shanks have been trimmed, brown them well in some fat. I usually rub them with seasonings and a bit of flour first as well. The flour helps thicken the sauce and adds a nice crust to the shanks. Then add your aromatics and braising liquid. Cover and cook slowly. When you braise the lamb don’t cover it with liquid, you want it half submerged. Also, don’t let the liquid boil, a low oven is ideal, then you can forget about it for a few hours.
This isn’t a Jamie Oliver recipe, it’s mine. But I have learned some things over the years — among them is that with simple flavours it is hard to go wrong with a lamb shank braised in red wine.
Lamb Shanks with Red Wine(serves 2)
Preheat oven to 300F. Heat a heavy oven proof pot or casserole to medium. On a plate toss together flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the shanks in the flour mixture all over and shake off excess.
Put oil in the pot and add lamb shanks. Patiently allow to brown on all sides, turning as necessary. Remove from pot and pour off excess oil. Add red wine and stock and bring to a simmer, gently scraping any brown bits for the bottom. Add shanks back to the pot along with remaining ingredients. Put a lid on it and place in the oven.
Bake for 2-3 hours or until tender. Turn the lamb every 45 minutes. Remove lamb shanks and cover to keep warm. Spoon excess fat off of sauce. If you want a thicker sauce put it back in the oven, uncovered to reduce. If you want a more uniform sauce, put in the blender briefly. Take this opportunity to taste it and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
Serve shanks with a hearty carb like mashed potatoes, risotto or buttered noodles. The sauce can be poured right on the shanks or served on the side.