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What Does Lamb Shank Taste Like?
Lamb is a grassy, gamey meat, and lamb shanks are the boldest expression of that gaminess, thanks to their higher levels of connective tissue and relative lack of fat. Lamb shanks are an ideal protein for braising, a combination-cooking method that starts with pan-searing followed by slow cooking in a liquid—usually in a Dutch oven or a slow cooker.
Braising is the best way to prepare lamb shanks, which can turn stringy when cooked too quickly. Braising tenderizes tougher cuts of meat, dissolving collagen and connective tissue into gelatin (which makes for a richer sauce or gravy later on) and coaxing flavor through every meat fiber until it’s fork-tender.
What to Serve With Lamb Shanks
Lamb shanks are best served with garnishes that can soak up all of its flavorful braising liquid, like mashed potatoes or polenta. For complementary side dishes, opt for simple preparations of fresh spring veggies, like green beans, radishes, snow peas, asparagus, or mushrooms.
Mint sauce is typically served with lamb because the herb’s sharp, clarifying flavor can stand up to the protein’s equally sharp flavor profile. A bright, kicky salsa verde or chimichurri also pair well with braised lamb shanks.
Braised Lamb Shank Recipe
Makes2 lamb shanks
Prep Time20 min
Total Time3 hr 20 min
Cook Time3 hr
- 2 lamb shanks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4–5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 large carrots, sliced on the bias
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup red wine (choose a low-tannin wine like merlot)
- 4 cups beef broth (vegetable or chicken broth also work)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider or sherry vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
- About 30 minutes before you plan on cooking, remove lamb shanks from the refrigerator and let temper on the counter. Season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- On the stovetop, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear lamb shanks, aiming for a deep and even golden brown, about 4–5 minutes per side. Remove, and set aside.
- Lower the heat to medium. Add the onion and sauté until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, carrots, and tomato paste, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until aromatic and the tomato paste begins to caramelize, about 1 minute. Deglaze the Dutch oven with the red wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen all the fond from the seared shanks on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the beef broth, vinegar, bay leaves, and rosemary then stir to combine. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Return the lamb shanks to the pot, nestling them in the braising liquid so they are completely covered.
- Cover, and transfer pot to the oven. Cook for 2–2 ½ hours, or until meat is falling off the bone and gives way easily to the tines of a fork.
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