Braised Lamb Shanks


Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty

Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, Blanquette de Veau: These stews were all part of my childhood. They warm you up—as well as the kitchen—and fill the house with beautiful aromas. This lamb shank recipe reminds me of a time when we visited my maternal grandmother, Mèmère Rivière, outside of Paris. She prepared a feast of braised lamb shank with couscous. She made the couscous from scratch. I was only 10 at the time but vividly remember sitting in her tiny sunlit kitchen, enveloped by the wonderful smell of spices, watching her in awe as she worked the semolina into little grains.

Serves 6–8

4 lamb shanks, trimmed of excess fat
2 tablespoons grape seed or canola oil
1½ cups diced onions
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup red wine 1 (28-ounce) can chopped San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1 cinnamon stick
2–3 cups green beans, cleaned and cut in half
1 lemon, for serving 4 ounces
feta cheese, for serving
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, for serving
Prepared couscous, egg noodles, quinoa or polenta, for serving

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Generously season the shanks with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the shanks to a plate and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Return the pot to the heat, add the onions and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic; stir until fragrant and cook another 2 minutes. Slowly add the wine, tomatoes, beef and cinnamon stick; bring to a boil; add the shanks and any accumulated juices from the plate.

Cook in the oven for 2 to 2½ hours, until the meat falls off the bone. Let rest and cool to room temperature. (If you can, let it rest 6 hours or overnight so you can scrape off the excess fat from the surface.)

Remove the shanks from the sauce and pull the meat off the bones—no need to cut or shred, just leave it in big chunks, discarding any tendons or pieces of fat. Put the meat back into the sauce and reheat over medium heat until liquid. (If you’re reheating from cold, the sauce will be almost solid and gelatinous from the bones.) Remove the cinnamon stick, add the green beans, cover and cook another 15–20 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges, feta cheese and oregano leaves on top of couscous, egg noodles, quinoa or polenta.

This recipe appeared in the Spring 2019 issue as part of a larger story on lamb.