WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: One of the great pleasures of cooking is turning a relatively tough cut of meat into a meltingly tender one. Among the most richly flavored of these cuts is the lamb shank, and braising is the ideal cooking method for it; this long, slow, moist cooking method causes the connective tissue to disintegrate and renders the fat without drying out the meat. But lamb shanks have a high fat content, and all too often the result is a greasy sauce. We wanted to find a way to lose the fat without sacrificing flavor.
Trim Well: Even a long, slow braise will not successfully render all the exterior fat on a lamb shank. If your butcher has not already done so, it is essential to take the time to carefully trim the lamb shanks of the excess fat that encases the meat.
Brown the Shanks: We found that browning the shanks served two important functions: It helped render some of the exterior fat, and it also provided a great deal of flavor to the dish. (Be sure to drain the fat from the pan after browning.)
Defat the Liquid: The final step to avoiding a greasy finished product was to defat the braising liquid after the shanks had cooked—either by skimming it from the surface using a ladle, or by refrigerating the braising liquid, then lifting off the solidified fat from the top.
Use Plenty of Liquid: A combination of wine and chicken broth provided a well-balanced braising liquid that complemented the flavor of the lamb. We found that using a generous amount of liquid—more than is called for in most braises—guaranteed that plenty would remain in the pot, resulting in moist, tender meat.
Braised Lamb Shanks in Red Wine with Herbes de Provence
If you’re using smaller shanks than the ones called for in this recipe, reduce the braising time by up to 30 minutes. If you can’t find herbes de Provence, you can make your own by combining 2 teaspoons dried marjoram, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (crumbled), 1 teaspoon dried sage, and 1/8 teaspoon ground fennel. Serve with polenta or mashed potatoes. Côtes du Rhône works particularly well here.
6 (12- to 16‑ounce) lamb shanks, trimmed
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2‑inch pieces
2 onions, sliced thick
2 celery ribs, cut into 2‑inch pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
2 cups dry red wine
3 cups chicken broth
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pat lamb shanks dry and season with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown 3 shanks on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer shanks to large plate and repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 3 lamb shanks.
2. Drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Add carrots, onions, celery, tomato paste, garlic, herbes de Provence, and pinch of salt and cook until vegetables are just starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in wine, then broth, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan, and bring to simmer. Nestle shanks, along with any accumulated juices, into pot.
3. Return to simmer, cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and continue to cook until tops of shanks are browned, about 30 minutes. Flip shanks and continue to cook until remaining sides are browned and fork slips easily in and out of shanks, 15 to 30 minutes longer.
4. Remove pot from oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer shanks and vegetables to large plate and tent with aluminum foil. Skim fat from braising liquid and season with salt and pepper to taste. Return shanks to braising liquid to warm through before serving.
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