If you are a lamb lover like our family, I am betting you will love this recipe for Braised Herb Lamb Shanks! The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and full of flavor from the herb blend, wine and beef broth. And wait till you taste that sauce, it is perfect with mashed potatoes.
Braising is one of my favorite cooking techniques. A long, slow braise will magically transform an inexpensive, tough cut of meat into an impressive meal creation that you will be proud to serve to your most discriminating guests.
Lamb shanks are a perfect cut for this braising method. They are a large bone, muscular, meaty cut that needs a lot of liquid and a long, slow cook time to tenderize those tough muscles and release their flavor.
Braising always begins with a good seasoning of the meat and giving it a nice browning in a hot brasier or Dutch oven. Flavor aromatics of onions, celery, carrots, garlic are the usual components and we added fennel and fresh herbs as well. A lot of liquid is required to soften up those tough fibers and we added a combination of red wine and beef broth.
This is not a difficult recipe and most of the work is done at the beginning of the process with the browning of the shanks and all the chopping and sautéing of the aromatics which can be done in advance. I actually browned the shanks and lightly sautéed the vegetables the day before and refrigerated it until the next day when it was finished off in the oven for a family dinner. Once the liquid is added the oven takes over for the next three hours.
After the shanks have become tender they are transferred to a plate and covered with foil to rest. The remaining braising liquid and vegetables in the cooking pot are strained, with the vegetables pressed down to extract as much of their good flavor before being discarded.
The braising liquid was added to a saucepan and a dash of Worcestershire sauce was stirred into it for a little Unami taste. The braising liquid was boiled and reduced to two cups and a paste of butter/flour was whisked into the liquid to slightly thicken the liquid into a sauce. The butter/flour paste is a French technique known as Beurre Manié and it is a great last-minute thickener that I learned.
The finished product is a tender, meaty, flavor-bursting lamb shank served on a mound of mashed potatoes and a rich, silky sauce poured over the top. Yum! Try some today!
- 4 lamb shanks about 1¼ pounds each
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
- 2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 cup beef broth
- 3 cups dry red wine, divided
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 325°F
- Season the lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven, or a brasier pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 of the lamb shanks and brown well on all sides, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside and repeat with the remaining 2 lamb shanks.
- In the same pot add the onion, celery, carrot, fennel, garlic, thyme, rosemary and the bay leaves. Return the browned lamb shanks to the pot and add the beef broth and 2 cups of wine. The liquid should nearly cover the shanks, add more broth or water if necessary, and bring the pot to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and and transfer to the oven until the meat is very tender, 2½ to 3 hours.
- When the lamb shanks have become tender, carefully transfer them to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquids through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepan, pressing down on the vegetables with the back of a spoon. Discard the solids left in the strainer, spoon off and discard as much of the fat as possible from the surface of the strained cooking liquids. Return the strained braising liquids to the cook-top set over medium-high and add the remaining 1 cup of wine and the Worcestershire sauce. Bring the braising liquids to a boil and cook until reduced to about 2 cups. About 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small dish combine the soft butter and the flour together mashing with a fork or back of a tablespoon to make a paste. When the braising liquids have reduced to 2 cups, remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk the butter/flour paste into the liquid. Return the pot to the heat and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the flour is fully cooked and the sauce has slightly thickened.
- Serve the lamb shanks in individual shallow bowls on top of mounds of mashed potatoes and garnished with chopped parsley.
- Transfer the sauce to a serving pitcher or dish to be served over the lamb shanks.
---Serve with either mashed potatoes, pasta or polenta.