Braised Lamb Shanks with Orange and Olives

March Monday.  Sunny and cold.  It’s the cold that makes this dish such a good choice for today.  And I’m working from home so it’s actually possible for me to make a meal that takes three hours, of course most of that time it’s cooking and I’m working, still I know for most people this is not a Monday night dinner.  Try it on a Sunday.  In fact, try it on Easter Sunday.  For those of you who serve lamb on Easter this would be a rockin’ good alternative to the traditional rack or leg of lamb.

I’m only making a half recipe of this.  I actually only have two lamb shanks (thank you Pair a Dice Farm), but decided to halve the rest of the ingredients instead of cut them by two-thirds.  Normally I alter the posted recipe to reflect whatever I actually did, but since it’s just a matter of proportions I left the original in tact today.  It took me about 20 minutes to get everything to the point of putting it in the oven for two hours.  I used more olives than the recipe calls for because I love them.  People who know me will tell you that when we go to restaurants that offer an olive tray appetizer it’s best to order one for me and a separate one for the table.  As far as I’m concerned more is always better in the olive category.  I left out the thyme because I didn’t have any, fresh or otherwise.

The picture from shows the lamb served with mashed potatoes.  Absolutely a good option.  I rarely have potatoes at my house.  Honestly I didn’t even consider a starch to help soak up the sauce until the rest of the dish was nearly done.  Fortunately I always have grits in the house.  So that’s my addition to this dish.  Grits cooked in a combination of beef stock, cream and water.  I needed 3 cups of liquid.  I had 1 cup of beef stock left in the box and about 1/2 cup of cream left from Saturday’s Blackberry Fool.  I added 1 1/2 cups of water to make up the difference.  Yum.  With this amount of liquid you can cook these until they’re just fork-ready  and still have them a little al dente.  If you like grits you eat with a spoon add a little extra liquid.

If you’re not a lamb person you could likely do this with beef, but this might be a good time to try lamb again.  Get some lamb from a local farm.  If you’re in Central Virginia check out Pair a Dice Farm lamb.  I’ve had several different cuts from them and they’re all very mild.  There’s definitely a lovely lamb flavor, but without the gaminess that folks often complain about.

In the final analysis this is good, good, good.  The sauce is dark and rich and briny with just a hint of orange.  Not the bright orange that comes from uncooked citrus, but the dark earthy orange that comes of cooking orange juice and zest in with meat for hours.  The grits are a fantastic creamy base for the lamb.  Cooking them with a little beef broth in the liquid makes the pairing all that much better.  The brussel sprouts were a fine accompaniment, but something a little sweeter might have been nice.  I think maybe some steamed sugar snaps would have been fantastic.

Good? Elegant comfort food good.
Easy? Let’s call it intermediate.
Good for company? Absolutely. You’ll need a BIG pot to make 6 portions.
Special shopping? Just look for local lamb. Shanks normally come in twos.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Orange and Olives


1 tablespoon olive oil
6 (12-ounce) lamb shanks, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
12 kalamata olives, pitted and quartered lengthwise


Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge lamb in flour, turning to coat; shake off excess flour. Add 2 shanks to pan; cook for 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure twice with remaining lamb shanks.

Add garlic to pan; sauté for 1 minute. Add orange juice, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in wine; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes. Stir in beef broth, thyme, and tomato paste; return to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add lamb to pan; cover and bake at 350° for 2 hours. Stir in rind and olives; bake an additional 30 minutes or until lamb is very tender. Place lamb on a platter; keep warm.

Place a large zip-top plastic bag inside a 4-cup glass measure. Pour cooking liquid into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain cooking liquid and olives into pan, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Bring cooking liquid to a boil over medium-high heat; cook until reduced to 2 cups (about 20 minutes).


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