We get two pasture-raised lambs a year (I ordered 3 lambs for 2021) from a local organic farm, RC Organic Farms. We had several packages of the shanks in the freezer from this year and last year. I decided to try my hand at cooking them. I searched through a bunch of recipes online, but nothing really seemed exactly what I was thinking of. So I combined a bunch of ideas and just winged it. It turned out fabulous. I decided to share what I did, so I can remember for the future, and so others can enjoy this. It is a delicious dish and shanks are an inexpensive cut of meat, they need a long cook time, so braising is a great method to make them tender and succulent.
This meal was a hit with the entire family. We served it over organic Quinoa, but it would be good over mashed cauliflower or mashed potatoes too. I served roasted sweet potato rounds and a salad with the lamb and quinoa. I didn’t thicken the sauce after cooking the lamb because we were short on time to get to my youngest son’s scout meeting. It would not be a bad idea to boil it to thicken or add some cornstarch.
The recipe can be adjusted for your personal taste. Feel free to customize it for your needs.
Brown the lamb shanks, it is important
I had several packages of shanks in my freezer, but when I unwrapped them it was only 6 lamb shanks and one small goat shank (from a goat we split with a friend from our local 4-H county fair animal auction) between all the packages.
The method I used to cook this dish was as follows. Add a bit of avocado oil to the pan and season the lamb shanks with sea salt and pepper on both sides, then brown the lamb shanks on all sides. I did it in two batches to not crowd the pan. It probably took a total of 20 minutes to brown them all on all sides, it is a bit time-consuming, but it really seals the meat and gives a much better depth of flavor to the dish.
Vegetables and aromatics
To give the dish as many layers of flavors as possible, I added plenty of aromatics. Finely diced onions, celery, and carrot sauteed with salt and pepper in the fat left from browning the lamb shanks. Once those are soft, I added minced garlic and cooked it for a minute and then added all the spices and cooked that mixture for another minute before adding the rest of the ingredients. You want the vegetables to pick up the flavor from the browning of the lamb shanks, and to soften, before adding liquid and the lamb shanks back to the pan. The carrot adds sweetness to the dish.
Liquids and final flavors
I added Marsala wine, as I had an opened bottle in my fridge. You could use any nice red wine or dry sherry. If you don’t want to use the alcohol, maybe try a small amount of red wine vinegar. An addition of a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste helps add to the richness of the dish. Allow the wine to cook off a bit and the tomato paste to lose its raw flavor, I just stirred them for a few minutes.
I added a bit of gluten-free Tamari soy sauce for a bit of saltiness and umami, you could add some coconut aminos or another soy substitute. Next, add the beef stock to the pan and stir it to meld the spices and flavors into the liquid. Then add the lamb shanks back into the pan, making sure they are mostly covered in the liquid. Finally, I added some diced preserved lemon and a couple of bay leaves to the mixture. Lastly, cover the pot and put it in a preheated oven.
The final dish was delicious. The lamb was extremely tender falling off the bone and the sauce was flavorful and rich.
We had a lot of the sauce/liquid leftover. I did not want to waste it. A couple of nights later I made some meatballs with ground lamb, browned them, and then cooked them in the sauce. It was amazing served over mashed potatoes, one of those dishes you just want to lick the plate.
Braised Lamb ShanksCourse: Main, LambDifficulty: Medium
6-8 Pasture-raised Lamb shanks
Avocado oil for browning meat
Sea salt and ground pepper
1 medium organic onion, finely diced
1 large organic carrot, finely diced
3 stalks organic celery, strings removed and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or to taste, I just grated some into the pot)
2-3 shakes of red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 cup Marsala wine (can substitute red wine or dry sherry or any liquid flavor you like…even apple juice)
2-3 Tablespoons organic tomato paste
1 Tablespoon gluten-free tamari soy sauce
8 cups beef stock, or enough to cover lamb shanks fully
1/2 a preserved lemon, finely diced
2 bay leaves
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Add avocado oil to heavy dutch oven or roasting pan on medium heat. Salt and pepper lamb shanks and brown in pan turning to brown all sides of meat. Do in batches to not overcrowd pan. Remove lamb shanks from pan and set aside after they are browned.
- Add diced carrot, onion, and celery to pot and stir to mix in with fat and drippings from browning lamb shanks (add a bit of avocado oil, if there is not enough fat in the pan). Add a sprinkle of sea salt and ground black pepper. Stir till vegetables are just softened. Add minced garlic and stir for another minute.
- Add turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes. Stir into vegetable mixture and continue stirring for a minute.
- Add marsala wine and tomato paste to vegetable mixture and stir for 1-2 minutes, till wine is mostly evaporated and tomato gets a chance to meld into the mixture and cook out the raw tomato flavor.
- Add 8-9 cups of beef stock to pot.
- Nestle browned lamb shanks (and any accumulated juices from them sitting) into the pot. Try to makes sure the lamb shanks are completely covered by the liquid. If needed, add more beef stock or some water to make sure they are mostly covered.
- Add preserved lemon and bay leaves to pot.
- Cover pot and place into pre-heated oven. Cook for 3 hours.
- You can thicken the sauce when the dish is done cooking if you desire (cook it down by boiling or add some cornstarch slurry). Serve lamb shank with the sauce over a bed of your choice of quinoa, rice, mashed cauliflower, or mashed potato.
- There was a lot of leftover sauce when we finished the lamb shanks. Save it, it is delicious and can be used to create another dish, or just serve over rice or quinoa mixed with roasted vegetables for a nice lunch. You could even freeze it if you don’t have time to use it right away.