By Charles Oppman
With Easter around the corner it’s time to break out the lamb recipes. When we think spring lamb, most of think of that boneless roast or a bone-in leg, but let’s try something different. Of course, French cut lamb shops are wonderful, but expensive and are short on flavor. Why not do lamb shanks? This is a great cut of spring lamb for several reasons―fairly inexpensive, bursting with flavor, soft texture and a high collagen content (when heated, collagen dissolves to offer flavor and moisture). Since this is a tough part of the animal’s musculature, shanks must be braised or slow-baked in the oven. This recipe calls for the braising method. As with any cut of lamb, the shanks are delicious with mint sauce. Please don’t resort to mint jelly. Fresh mint sauce is a snap to make. You just add mint leaves to the natural juices. This is an easy recipe that you’ll love. One caveat, the bone in lamb shanks can be large (this is a good thing because this means more flavor) so compensate for this when judging how many shanks to cook.
3-4 pounds of lamb shanks
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 cups chicken broth, canned is fine
1 tablespoon Worstershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 sprigs fresh mint, finely chopped
In a heavy skillet or Dutch oven heat the oil over a high flame. Salt and pepper the shanks and sear in hot oil on all sides to form a brown crust.
Remove and set aside browned shanks. Add the garlic, onion, celery, thyme leaves and bay leaves to the hot skillet. Cook over medium to high flame for 3 minutes.
Add shanks back to the skillet. Add chicken broth and Worstershire sauce. Either place covered skillet in a preheated 300ºF oven or simmer over low fire. Cook until shanks are fork tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Remove shanks from skillet and set aside. Strain sauce into a separate container. Skim off surface oil, discard oil.
Return sauce to skillet and reheat. Whisk in tomato paste. Add chopped mint leaves. Reduce sauce until desired consistency is achieved. If too thick add a small amount of chicken broth. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve with oven-roasted potatoes or cous cous. Serve sauce in a separate container as desired.