When you have a really high-quality ingredient, there’s always the risk of not using it to its full potential, or ruining it. Like accidentally burning a panful of hand-gathered wild mushrooms, or insufficiently brining, then overcooking, that free-range organic turkey you ordered specially for Thanksgiving. Or even just making something really boring with a fabulous piece of filet mignon. It’s depressing. So when I got the two shanks out from the half lamb we bought last spring, I felt some pressure to do them up right. After all, there are only two – I couldn’t start over if I messed them up!
Thank God for Molly Stevens. I (loosely) followed her recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks Provençal, and as usual with her recipes, it came out delicious. The meat fell off the bone into the unctuous, lemony sauce, and we muddled it all up on our plates with soft buttery polenta and sauteed spinach. These lamb shanks could not have asked for a better fate.
Lamb Shanks Provençal
adapted from All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking by Molly Stevens
- 2 lamb shanks
- 1/4 cup (or so) white flour
- 1 Tsp paprika
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup (more or less) chicken stock
- 1 meyer lemon
- 1 bay leaf
- handful kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 325°.
Mix the flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a deep plate or wide bowl. Dredge the lamb shanks in the seasoned flour. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the shanks on all sides. Remove them from the pan.
Add a bit more oil to the pan if necessary. Add the onion, tomatoes and garlic and cook until the onion is soft, 5-10 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer a few minutes. Add the stock and simmer a bit longer.
Use a vegetable peeler to take a couple good long strips of zest off the lemon. Add these to the pan along with the bay leaf. Nestle the shanks down into the vegetables and liquid. Cover tightly and stick the pan in the oven.
Cook for about 2 1/2 hours. Every 45 minutes or so, check the liquid level (and add a bit more stock or water if it seems to be getting low), and turn the shanks.
In the meantime, finish peeling the lemon and cut the membranes off the fruit, so you have tender segments of lemon. Set these aside.
When the lamb is falling off the bone, take the pan out of the oven and check the sauce consistency. If it’s still pretty liquidy, remove the shanks and boil down the sauce (you can try to defat it at this point, but it’s not easy). When it’s a nice thick texture, stir in the lemon segments, olives and parsley. Add the shanks back into the sauce and serve with some sort of starch: couscous, mashed potatoes or polenta would all be great.
Leftovers, if you have any, are spectacular.