Hey there holiday entertainers! We have something special for you today. If you haven’t braised lamb shanks before you’re in for a treat. Besides being super flavourful and delicious, they’re dead simple to make, yet impressive when served to a hungry crowd.
Braising lives in a pretty magical place where the simplicity of stewing meets the elegance of roasting. The cooking time is forgiving, most of the work can usually be done in advance, and with a few final sprinkles of parsley, the presentation can be killer. This makes for some perfect entertaining material.
Lamb is always impressive, but the secret ingredient in today’s recipe is saffron. It plays perfectly with the other more common flavours in this dish, yet adds a little unexpected touch that everyone will be asking about.
- a pinch of saffron threads (about 1/8th tsp. when crumbled)
- 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil
- 1 kg lamb shanks (2 large or 3-4 small)
- 1 large cooking onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or minced
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- 1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained (or 1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas)
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. chile flakes
- salt, to taste
- 1 cup of loosely packed parsley
- couscous, millet, or quinoa to serve
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- In a small bowl combine the crumbled saffron threads with 2 Tbsp. of boiling water and set aside.
- In a large heavy bottomed dutch oven or braising pot, heat the oil over low-medium heat.
- Season the lamb shanks generously with salt and sear for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, in batches, until well browned. Set them aside.
- Using the remaining oil in the pot, sauté the onions and garlic with 1/2 tsp. of salt for a few minutes, scraping in any brown bits that remained from the shanks.
- Add the wine and increase the heat to medium high. Simmer until the wine is reduced by about a half and the onions are soft.
- Add the tomatoes, saffron (with water), chickpeas, sugar and chile flakes. Simmer for a few minutes, then taste the sauce and season with salt.
- Add the shanks back to the pot and spoon some sauce over them. Cover and bake for about 2 hours, rotating the shanks half way through. They should be really tender, almost falling off the bone, when done. If they’re still a little tough after 2 hours, braise longer, checking on them every 20 minutes or so.
- When ready to serve, reheat thoroughly if necessary. Remove the shanks from the sauce, place them on a baking tray, and broil for a few minutes on each side to get some crispy brown bits.
- Stir most of the parsley into the sauce, reserving a few spoonfuls for garnish. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
- Serve the shanks on a bed of couscous, millet, or quinoa. Spoon the sauce over the shanks and garnish with remaining parsley.
1 kg of lamb shanks will generously serve 4, so it’s ideal if you can get 4 smaller shanks. If using 2 or 3 larger ones, you can present them whole in the braising liquid and use a fork to pull the meat off the bone before spooning the sauce and lamb over the couscous.
To make this in advance, stop after step 8. Refrigerate the shanks in the braising liquid for up to a few days, and resume with step 9 when ready to serve.
If scaling the recipe up to serve a crowd, you’ll have to transfer the shanks and braising liquid to a larger baking dish (vs. keeping them in the dutch oven) in step 8.