Meaty Mainstays

Ancho-Braised Lamb Shanks

January 5, 2019

It’s 12th night tonight! I’m not in baking mode–running about in the sunshine with my boys–so no kings cake,  but tomorrow, will make this wonderful dish in keeping with the Spanish tradition on Epiphany (Reyes) of eating one last feast of the holiday season, including slow-roast lamb. This  “low & slow” fabulosity is a dish you can start in the morning and feast on at dinner.  You’ll put it in the oven with a full gallon of chili-spiked braising liquid which, simmered down for four hours, still leaves plenty to reheat and glaze the shanks for several reprises. Served with little pearls of Israeli couscous, rich gravy & a sauce of preserved lemon, mint, garlic and Greek yogurt, these ancho-spiced shanks make a meal full of bright flavors.

Ancho-Braised Lamb Shanks
Serves 4
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  1. 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  2. 4 lamb shanks, 16 to 20 ounces each
  3. 2 tablespoons canola or grape-seed oil
  4. 1 to 2 tablespoons salt
  5. 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  6. 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  7. 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
  8. 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  9. 2 ribs celery, chopped
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. 1 cup dry red wine
  12. 1 gallon veal or beef stock
  13. 4 whole dried ancho chilies
  14. 1 package Israeli couscous
  15. 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  16. 2 teaspoons finely minced preserved lemons (see our recipe)
  17. 3 teaspoons fresh chopped mint
  18. 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  19. 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  20. Arugula or radish sprouts, optional
  1. Heat oven to 325. Place garlic cloves with 1 teaspoon water in a foil packet in oven. Roast, 20-30 minutes until garlic cloves are soft.
  2. Stir salt, pepper and cumin together in a small bowl. Rub mixture into the lamb shanks.
  3. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet. Cook lamb shanks, in batches if necessary, until well browned on all sides, 12 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.
  4. In the same skillet, saute onion, carrot and celery until softened and golden brown, 10 minutes.
  5. Remove garlic cloves from oven; squeeze pulp from skins. Add garlic to skillet. Pour in wine; cook, stirring up browned bits from the pan as it reduces. Add as much beef stock as will fit in the pan along with bay leaf; heat to boiling.
  6. Place the lamb shanks in a very large roasting pan. Pour hot stock and vegetables over the meat.
  7. Wearing gloves, snip the stems off ancho chilies, remove seeds; add ancho chilies to pan. Heat remaining beef or veal stock until boiling; add to the roasting pan.
  8. Cover roasting pan tightly with foil; roast in 325 oven, 4 hours.
  9. Remove pan from oven; cool shanks and vegetables in braising liquid. Refrigerate until well chilled, or overnight.
To serve
  1. Heat oven to 350. Skim fat from the pan. Remove the shanks. Strain out the vegetables from the braising liquid. On your stovetop, In an oven-proof pan over medium heat, reduce braising liquid by one-third. Add shanks to the pan; place in oven. Spoon braising liquid over shanks every 5 minutes until shanks are heated through and glazed with the braising liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, toast couscous in a hot skillet until golden brown. Cook couscous in well-salted boiling water following package directions. Season to taste with salt pepper and a little butter.
  3. Mix yogurt, preserved lemons, mint and garlic together to make a sauce garnish.
  4. To plate, place a mound of couscous in a serving dish, top with a lamb shank. Spoon braising sauce over all. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt sauce, finely grated lemon zest and a sprinkling of fresh sprouts
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