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Winter Deliciousness: Lamb Shanks!

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Who does not love a good braise when it’s chilly outside? Here's a recipe for braised lamb shanks (with a more veggie focused alternative) and wine pairings -- I propose Bourgogne Rouge or Pinot Noir from the new world!

Most of y’all know that I am just as passionate about cooking as I am about wine. Some of y’all might even know that’s where I got my start – in the kitchen of Emeril’s Delmonico. My time as a New Orleans line cook was short lived, but I went on to work in Emeril’s test kitchen for a few years and loved the intellectual nature of developing and testing recipes, and then I even went on to write a cookbook when I opened my own restaurant (the Glass Onion) here in Charleston in 2008.

So not surprisingly it’s been a longtime goal of mine to provide recipes to go along with wine pairings I mention here. Well this year I am staying true to this resolution and plan to start amping up the recipes.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Who does not love a good braise when it’s chilly outside? A few weeks ago, on one of those Sundays when the high was looking to be in the 40s (frigid for us Southerners!), I decided it was time to revisit my lamb shank recipe. Last winter I began tinkering with a pretty classic dish and came up with the idea of adding a dusting of my homemade curry powder to add some more layers of flavor. This winter I decided to tinker a bit more and added even more veggies (a good ol' rutabaga) to the usual mirepoix and finished with arugula – making it a nearly one pot meal! (I love my lamb shanks over couscous so that required a separate pot!)

What to pair with this hearty, rich braise?? You might think I would reach for a BIG red, but I have said it before, and I will say it again I prefer bright, fresh reds to cut through decadence. So I opted for a lovely “entry level” red Burgundy, but a Pinot Noir from Oregon or Cali could also have done the trick. (The Shiba Wichern Oregon Pinot Noir pictured here is outstanding!)

Sure you could up the ante and opt for a higher tier of wine, but honestly the dish has so much going on I prefer to save a super complex wine for a more straight ahead meal (like grilled steak). When it comes to a comforting, meaty, winter braise I look for what you might call “bistro wine”.

P.S. If you are more veggie focused I swear you could leave out the shanks and opt for even more root vegetables (like parsnips)!

Braised Lamb Shanks Français (just to be fancy!)

2 cups of red wine (inexpensive but not total garbage!)

Glug of olive oil

2 lamb shanks

Curry powder, salt, and pepper for dusting

2 cups chopped onion

1 ½ cups chopped celery

1 ½ cups chopped carrots (and peeled)

1 ½ cups chopped rutabaga (and peeled)

5 cloves garlic, sliced

More curry powder, salt, and pepper

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons concentrated tomato paste

1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)

1 to 2 quarts chicken stock

¼ cup veal glace (optional)

3 Bay Leaves

1 bundle freshy thyme, tied with kitchen twine

1 cinnamon stick

¼ cup all purpose flour

3 tablespoons butter, softened

4 cups of washed arugula (optional)

Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish

This is a very straightforward recipe with just a few separate steps, but it will take a few hours from start to finish due to long cooking time.

Firstly, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Next, bring your 2 cups of red wine to a simmer in a small pot over medium heat. Reduce to 1 cup and reserve.

Next, heat a good glug of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. While it’s heating, season lamb shanks with curry powder (optional), salt, and pepper. (Don’t forget Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper make a world of difference in recipes!)

Sear lamb shanks until nicely browned on all sides. (Reduce heat to medium if any burning begins to happen.) Remove shanks from the pan and reduce flame to medium. Add another glug of olive oil and onion, celery, carrots, rutabaga, and garlic. Season with salt, black pepper, and curry powder to taste (about 1 teaspoon of each is a nice starting point for building your foundation of seasoning.) Add oregano, tomato paste, and anchovy paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until vegetables have begun to soften. Add reserved wine and stir vigorously to “deglaze” the pan. Add 1 ½ quarts of chicken stock and veal glace (if using) along with bay leaves, thyme bundle, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a vigorous simmer. Add lamb shanks and allow to return to a simmer. Cover and place in the preheated oven. Cook for about 2 hours, until the lamb is nearly falling off the bone. (It’s not a bad idea to check the dish after an hour to make sure the braising liquid has not cooked down too much. You can always add more stock.)

(While lamb is cooking, combine flour and softened butter in a small bowl and work together with your fingers to form a paste of sorts.)

Once lamb is cooked until very tender, remove from the oven and return the pot to the stovetop. Remove shanks from the pot and reserve in a baking dish. Bring braising liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Add the flour-butter paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, until braising liquid thickens. Reduce heat to low.

Meanwhile, once shanks are cool enough to handle, I like to cut or pull meat from the bone. Then return meat to the pot along with arugula (if using) and bring the entire dish back to a simmer. Season with additional salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve over couscous or rice. Garnish with torn or chopped parsley leaves.

Voila! Lamb Shanks Français!

Serves 4.

P.S. After all this trouble don't skimp on poor quality couscous. Here's a link to THE very couscous I have found!

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