Herb Marinated Braised Lamb Shanks

What is it about September that the minute it’s no longer oppressively hot we can’t wait to make a slow-cooked, braised stew? Perhaps it was that these lamb shanks had been sitting in our large freezer all summer long, and every time I opened it (usually to get out the ice cream maker bowl) there they were, just asking to be cooked. Finally it has cooled down enough that we can enjoy a hearty stew. Lamb shanks come from either the forelegs or the lower hind legs of a lamb, which get a lot of exercise, and therefore are great cuts for stews and slow-cooked braises. The long cooking time is needed to break down the tough connective tissue in the muscles. At the end of cooking the meat should just fall off the bone. With the addition of fresh tomatoes and zucchini, this herb-marinated lamb stew is a great dish for the end of summer and beginning of fall.

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Herb Marinated Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ Tbsp curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2-4 lamb shanks (1 to 1¼ lb each)
  • 6 cups chicken stock or low-salt chicken broth
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • 2 carrots, peeled, cut lengthwise and then and cut into 2 inch segments
  • 1 pound red-skinned new potatoes, quartered lengthwise
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste

Method

1 Stir together in a small bowl the ground cumin, coriander, thyme, rosemary, curry powder, and salt. Mix in 1/4 cup olive oil. Place lamb shanks in large freezer bag. Add the spice oil to the bag. Rub spice oil all over shanks. Press the air out of the bag and seal the bag. Place in a dish to catch any leakage. Marinate 4 hours or overnight.

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2 Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over high heat. Remove lamb shanks from marinade bag and place in heated pan. Discard remaining marinade. Cook lamb shanks until brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add stock and garlic; bring to boil, cover and transfer to oven. Cook 1 hour; remove from oven and turn lamb shanks over. Cover and continue cooking until lamb is tender, about 45 minutes longer.

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Using tongs, transfer lamb to platter; tent with foil to keep warm.

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3 Bring liquid in pot to simmer over medium heat. Add carrots; simmer 10 minutes. Add potatoes to liquid and simmer 5 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and zucchini to liquid and simmer until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to platter with lamb. Spoon off fat from braising liquid, reserving 1 tablespoon.

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4 Heat reserved fat in heavy large skillet over medium heat. (If there is no fat, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil instead.) Whisk in flour; stir 2 minutes. Whisk in tomato paste and 1 cup of the braising liquid. Add back into the pot with the rest of the braising liquid. Boil for a couple minutes until slightly thickened. Add back the vegetables and the lamb shanks. If you want, use a couple forks to break away the lamb meat from the bones. Discard the bones.

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Inspired by a recipe in Bon Appétit magazine.

Many thanks to Niman Ranch who provided the pasture-fed, family-farmed, hormone and antibiotic-free lamb for this recipe.

15 Comments

  1. meeso

    Oh man…this looks good! The greatest thing about cold weather is all the foods that are enjoyed the most during that time. This sounds amazing and looks like a stew my mom would have whipped up when I was a kid…comfort food!

  2. AK

    September with meat falling off the bone and fall vegetables? Heaven on THIS earth.

  3. farmgirl susan

    Elise, you know I love when you share lamb recipes–especially when they’re made with natural, grass-fed lamb.

    When we first started raising sheep, I couldn’t believe how many people would ask me about lamb shanks, getting this dreamy-eyed look as they fondly recalled lamb shank dinners from their past. I was totally unfamiliar with them, and even my processor didn’t mention the shanks the first time we brought lambs in and I was deciding what cuts we wanted. The shanks were simply cut up into stew meat.

    Then my mother asked the lamb shank question and got the dreamy-eyed look. And nobody wants to disappoint their mother, especially when it comes to dinner. So the next time we had lambs processed I asked for all the shanks, cut into 2 to 4 pieces each. My mother was thrilled. We slow cooked them in a dutch oven with plenty of onions and garlic plus tomatoes and sweet peppers from the garden (via the freezer), and they were fantastic. So much flavor!

    The best thing about cooking lamb shanks in a dutch oven is that it’s pretty much impossible to overcook them. We rarely eat on time around here, and one night the three hours of cooking turned into six or seven. Oh my god were they good.

    My mother is coming to visit the farm next month, and I have several packages of lamb shanks in the freezer set aside especially for her. This time I had them left whole and was afraid maybe I’d made a mistake as they looked a little large. I was so glad to see your photos of whole shanks, though I figured they’d be fine as long as they fit in the pot!

    LOL, I didn’t mean to go on so long. I easily get carried away talking about food, and talking about lamb, well. . . : )

  4. Abby

    Lamb is new to me, but it’s definitely something I’d like to add to my list of done-thats – and a stew seems like a good, simpler place to start.

    And I hear you about the weather! It finally stayed below 75 degrees today and I couldn’t stand it anymore – I made soup (with cornbread). I’ll blog about it when I return to such things – this heat really got to me!

  5. Andy

    Wow don’t you just love fall? Not only does the season change out side but our menus change as well. I love your bit up curry powder in there, sounds great!

  6. isabelle

    Love your recipes! Quick question-I have never been a huge lamb fan-could I substitute some meat in this dish instead? If so-any particular cut you would recommend?
    Thanks!

  7. Leon

    Never had lamb before. But the way you prepare it, I can’t wait to taste it!

  8. brys

    This looks delicious, Elise, thanks. This is our first cool week in the mid-Atlantic and I’m really excited about stews. With farmers markets still going, I love the idea of adding holdover summer vegetables, even stirred in to stews at the last minute.
    -Brys

  9. Adora

    Thanks for the perfect recipe to cook this Saturday while enjoying a mountain getaway! I can’t wait to taste it.

  10. Janice Khyati

    WOW, WOW, WOW

    First let me say that my husband is Moroccan and Morocco is known for their fine cuisine especially lamb dishes, so they are a little picky. Well, I made it for him today and he was blown away by the flavor. This is a fantastic dish and deserves 5 stars. The only thing that I changed was that I used lamb shoulder chops instead of shanks so I could eliminate the oven cooking part because chops cook in about 30-40 minutes after braising for 10 min.

  11. Elise

    Hi Isabelle – well, it is a lamb stew. If you substitute for another meat, it would be another stew. You can do it of course. But I would recommend looking up beef stew on this site or on the Internet to find a recipe. This beef stew is a great one.

  12. Elise

    Hi Brys – we usually think of lamb as a spring meal, but there are two seasons for lamb, spring and fall. So stirring in the last of the summer vegetables actually makes sense for the fall lamb. Hmm. Thinking of seasons has me dreaming of a cranberry and lamb combo. Bet that would be good too.

  13. Hummer

    Make sure the meat is completely cooked – it should be falling off the bones at the 1:45 mark. If not, make sure you’ve got enough liquid, turn the meat, and cook it longer.

  14. garry

    That looks real good, I have some shank in the fridge for Saturday’s supper, and I just know that this recipe is going to taste amazing, I just hope that I can do it justice. You have so many great recipies on this site.

  15. Elizabeth

    Thanks for a great recipie! I have been looking for one that doesn’t have red wine or vinegar in it since I’m allergic to the yeast in both. Everyone in my family gobbled it up – even the picky eater and the one who doesn’t like spicy food!
    Shanks are stil good – even in December!

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