As the leaves turn magnificent shades of red, yellow and orange, my mind thinks menu change! The cold New England winters make me long for warm, falling-off-the-bone meals. Actually, winter translates to hot and soothing meals that fill the soul. One recent Sunday I couldn’t stop thinking about lamb shanks. Most ladies dream of diamonds but I was contemplating gamey meats. Luck was with me when I nabbed the last three lamb shanks at my local Whole Foods. It can be difficult finding lamb shanks or short ribs. Most grocery stores don’t have real butchers as the meats come pre-cut and packaged. Whole Foods almost always has what I desire.
So humor me as I describe a fantastic way to cook lamb shanks. It involves one of my favorite condiments, balsamic vinegar. When I braise, I plan on staying home. I find a project, or a good movie that will fill the time. I never leave the house with anything running. Braising gives me a perfect reason to be a shut in stay home for a few hours.
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
3 lamb shanks
2 tsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with flat side of knife
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 celery ribs, cut into hunks
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ cup of good balsamic
1 cup of white wine
4 cups of chicken stock, store bought works great
- Whisk flour, salt, black pepper, cumin, and cinnamon together. Roll the lamb shanks in the flour mixture until they are coated.
- Heat a Dutch oven (4 to 6 quarts) over a medium-high heat and sear the lamb shanks on all sides until browned.
- Transfer lamb shanks onto a plate and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Scrape any crusty bits from the lamb-searing, off the bottom of the Dutch oven. (don’t discard, just loosen them to prevent them from burning)
- Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the vinegar and cook until it has evaporated slightly and thickened further, about 10 minutes.
- Return the lamb shanks to the pot and pour the white wine and chicken stock over them. If you don’t have wine, water is a fine substitute. Season the broth to taste with salt, cover the pot, and place it in the oven until the meat is very tender and falling off the bones. This will take about 2 ½ to 3 hours of slow cooking.
- Remove the shanks from the pot, onto a platter or sheet pan, covering them with foil to keep them warm, and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Discard the solids.
- Cook the sauce over medium heat until it has reduced by about half. This should take about 15 minutes.
- Season the sauce to taste and pour it over the lamb shanks.
I served it with polenta and Parmesan cheese. I like to take the meat off the bone when I serve it. It falls off the bone and your guests won’t even need a knife to cut it. I’ve served it over tagliatelle and butter, which is utterly delicious!
I’ve adapted this recipe slightly from Cara Nicoletti’s recipe. I hope you enjoy it! If you prefer, you can cook this the day before you plan on serving it. Braised meats taste even better the next day. Enjoy!