Monday, April 2, 2012

Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks

Tired of the same old ham for Easter?  Why not cook up something much more appropriate, such as lamb.   Lamb certainly has more mention in religious circles than the back end of a hog's leg.  This is a simple, straight-up braise that yields deliciously tender lamb shanks.  You can also make this the day before and quickly reheat in the oven, if that makes it easier for you.  Which 'dry red' wine to use in this recipe? Go pick up a couple bottles of decent Syrah, which you already know is also called Shiraz in some countries.  One is for drinking and the other is for drinking.  Wait...get three bottles.  One is for cooking.  

Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks
serves 4

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 one lb lamb shanks
6 garlic cloves, peeled
4 medium carrots, sliced 1/4"
4 celery ribs, sliced 1/4"
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 bottle dry red wine
1 C (or more) of water
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme or rosemary or both
10 whole peppercorns

Fire up your hotbox to 325F.  In a large oven-proof cast iron dutch oven, (or similar) heat up the oil over high heat.  Season the lamb shanks all over with S&P.  Brown on all sides, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Try to get as much surface area as you can to create a nice brown Maillard-reaction crust.  Remove the shanks to a plate, add the veggies and the wine.  Boil rapidly for about 3 minutes.  Add the shanks back in and the peppercorns, herbage and bay leaves.  You'll need to add about 1 C of water to ensure the shanks are just covered.  Cover tightly and place in the oven.  Cook until very tender, about 1.5 hours, turning once halfway through.

You do have a plastic cutting board reserved only for raw meat, right?

Transfer the shanks to an ovenproof dish, turn down the oven to 275F.  Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a medium pot.  Boil for 20 minutes to reduce to about 1.5-2 C.  Add the warm shanks back to the liquid to ensure they are heated through for a couple minutes, then plate up and serve with additional sauce passed at the table.  Any leftover sauce should be saved for your next ribeye off the grill.  Serve with some garlic smashed red potatoes and a green salad, or whatever you like.  If you want to use the same technique for a different animal, now's the perfect time of year for this recipe too.

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