This is one of my go-to recipes for special occasions. You can make it a day in advance, cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just remove it from the refrigerator, let come to room temp and reheat on the stove.
The leftover braising liquid is an excellent base for making tomato sauce for pasta. Pick out the herbs, then just add crushed tomatoes or tomato paste, cook down, and season to your taste. You’ll have a perfect pasta sauce.
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 medium onion
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 lamb shanks (they are not cross-cut like veal shanks – it’s the whole bottom part of the leg) – about 2 to 2 1/4 lbs total
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 6-oz can good quality tomato paste
- 1 bottle full-bodied Italian red wine (inexpensive wine is OK and recommended)
- Small bunch of herbs including fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley and 2 bay leaves tied with kitchen string
- Peel the carrots and onion and trim their ends. Slice into a medium dice and set aside in a bowl.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
- Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and heat till shimmering. Very liberally salt and pepper the lamb shanks all over and place in the pot to brown. Continue to rotate the lamb with a pair of kitchen tongs until a deep crust forms on the shanks. Because of the shape of the shanks, you won’t be able to brown every part of the surface. Remove to a bowl and let the juices collect.
- Lower the heat under the pot to medium and add the diced carrots, celery and onion. Add a dash of salt and stir. Cover the pot and let the vegetables release their liquids for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and frequently stir the vegetables until they are deep golden brown. This can take 20-30 minutes. If they begin to burn, lower the heat.
- Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan. Add the tomato paste to the center of the pot and slowly cook and stir the paste until it turns a deep rich color – about 5 minutes. Stir the vegetables with the tomato paste and then add the smashed garlic cloves and the bundle of herbs.
- Add the seared lamb shanks and their collected juices and the bottle of red wine. Add enough water so the lamb is covered. On the stove, cover with a lid and raise heat to high until the liquid is very hot.
- Place the Dutch oven in the oven. The entire cooking process will take 2 1/2 – 3 hours. At the midpoint, remove the Dutch oven from the oven, check the pot and flip over the shanks. Add enough water to again cover. Cover with the lid and place on the stove on high heat until the liquid is very hot. Place back in the oven until the shanks are super-tender and the meat is falling off the bone.
- Lift the lamb from the braising liquid and serve over a bed of mashed potatoes, creamy polenta or parsnip puree. Top with a little horseradish if you’d like.
- Dutch oven large enough to hold the lamb shanks snugly