Kitchen Exhibitionist
The Culinary Quests of a Food Enthusiast Stuck in the Sticks
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
The Perfect Company Main Dish for Winter

I’ve found it! The perfect main dish to serve company during the chilly winter weather season. It is easy to prepare and, in fact, is best made a day ahead, meeting two important criteria for effortless entertaining. Most people have had little or no exposure to this cut of meat, making it a special dish for most. And of course, it is delicious. The meat is succulent, meltingly tender with rich, fragrant juices. I’m talking about braised lamb shanks. Seriously!

Don’t pass this by if you’re not a big lamb fan. This particular cut of lamb is rich and flavorful, almost beefy. And it is so much fun to serve a great big whole lamb shank on each plate! I rarely make the same dishes over again but I’ve made this one three times now and can’t wait to make it again. Everyone to whom I’ve served it has loved it.

The hardest part of this recipe is finding good meaty lamb shanks. If you can find them in a grocery store at all, they are usually puny and not worth the effort. I always call a local butcher to cut nice big shanks for me, between 1 pound and 1 ¼ pounds each.
The braising juices are ambrosial, thus something like mashed potatoes, couscous, or, my choice, soft fresh polenta is a mandatory side dish to capture that delicious liquid.

One final bonus, the bones make a wonderful treat for your favorite dog.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary
Adapted slightly from Bon Appétit February 1997

6 lamb shanks (about 5 pounds total) (I use bigger ones)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
10 garlic cloves, minced
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1 14 1/2-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can beef broth
5 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Unless you have a massive dutch oven, you will need to use two large heavy deep pots to cook the entire recipe, half in each one.

Sprinkle shanks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add shanks to pot and cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer shanks to bowl.

Add onions, carrots and garlic to pot and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Return shanks to pot, pressing down to submerge. Bring liquids to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; simmer until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

Uncover pot; simmer until meat is very tender, about 30 minutes longer.

Best made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold; cover and refrigerate. When ready to reheat, scrap off any fat that has solidified on the surface.

Rewarm over medium heat before continuing. Transfer shanks to platter; tent with foil.Boil juices in pot until thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over shanks.Serves 6.

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