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.
Herb Marinated Braised Lamb Shanks
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin 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 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
Marinate lamb in herbs:
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.
Brown shanks on all sides:
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, garlic, then simmer:
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.
Remove lamb shanks to a plate:
Once the lamb shanks have cooked until they are fall apart tender remove them to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. When cool, remove meat from bones and cut into chunks.
Cook vegetables in stew braising liquid:
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.
Remove vegetables from pan, skim fat from braising liquid:
Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to platter with lamb. Spoon off fat from braising liquid, reserving 1 tablespoon.
Make roux, thicken stew:
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
Inspired by a recipe in Bon Appétit magazine.