Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary

I’ve done a fair amount of entertaining of late.  That’s left me with little energy to make a decent dinner on the nights when I’m home.  Not to mention the shopping and wrapping and getting a new pup settled in.  Tonight I decided I needed something a little nicer than take out or leftover chicken enchilada casserole.  I had two lamb shanks left in the freezer.  Lamb is always a little special.  Decision made.

Braised Lamb Shanks

The nice thing about lamb shanks, or shanks of any kind, is that they’re wicked easy to cook.  They pretty much have to be braised or slow roasted to make them tender enough to eat so there’s a lot of time when you’re not doing anything and the house is starting to smell fantastic.  I only made one real substitution tonight.  I had some beef stock in the fridge that needed a purpose so I used that and skipped the chicken stock in the original recipe.  I didn’t have any fresh thyme so I used dried. Oh, and I used baby carrots because I had some.  Pretty amazing that other than that I followed the recipe.  I only made 1/3 of the recipe since I only had 2 lamb shanks, but that’s plenty.  That gives me a few, but not too many leftovers.

The thing to remember when you’re braising is that every flavor gets extra intense as the liquid cooks down.  That means that you need to use good ingredients.  Use good wine.  Whatever you’re drinking is fine.  Use good tomatoes.  I’m excited that I still have some garden tomatoes on the canning shelves.  They’re the best.  Some commercial roasted tomatoes with garlic would be an ample substitute.  And of course, use good lamb.  Buy local if you can.  Kudos, as always, to Pair-A-Dice Farm for mine.  So mild and yummy. It’ll be many months before I see them again at the farmer’s market.  I miss them already!

Okay, back to the braising liquid.  I’ll tell you that it smelled a little off when I got all the ingredients in there.  Something about the combination of red wine, rosemary, time and lemon zest just didn’t quite go.  I was worried.  No need.  It turned out great.  Rich and brown and warm.  The carrots add just a touch of sweetness and the lemon the tiniest bit of brightness  and the rosemary just the right amount of earthiness.  One caution, be careful about the salt.  It will intensify with everything else as it cooks and if you use commercial tomatoes they may have salt already.  Just wait until you’re kind of close to the end to decide if you need to add salt.

The recipe doesn’t give any serving ideas for this.  Most often you see lamb shanks served over white beans or polenta, or grits in my part of the world.  I’ll probably go the grits route with the leftovers.  Hard to beat having grits for dinner.  I’m sure any of those options would work just fine.  In fact, it worked just fine to eat it right out of a bowl!  A good cure for a cold and windy December night.

Good? Very good.
Easy? Yep. Throw everything in the pot and wait for the magic to happen.
Good for company? Definitely.
Special shopping? Nope.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary


2 lamb shanks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 C baby carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 C dry red wine
1 pint diced tomatoes with juices
1 1/2 C beef broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest


Sprinkle shanks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add shanks to pot and cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer shanks to bowl.

Add onions, carrots and garlic to pot and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Return shanks to pot, pressing down to submerge. Bring liquids to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; simmer until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

Uncover pot; simmer until meat is very tender, about 30 minutes longer. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold; cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.) Transfer shanks to platter; tent with foil. Boil juices in pot until thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over shanks.


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