Shiksa Lamb Shanks

Last week I talked a bit about the differences between what Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews consider kosher for Passover. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some of our Sephardic friends serve lamb for the Seder, while our Ashkenazi friends do not. Recently I asked Rabbi Olitsky at the Jewish Outreach Institute why lamb isn’t served at the Ashkenazi Seder table. He explained to me that Ashkenazi Jews traditionally equate eating lamb at Passover to eating the paschal sacrifice. Therefore, Ashkenazi tradition has made this meat off-limits during the week of Passover.

There is a Jewish law that prohibits roasting a whole lamb for Passover. However, there is no Torah law forbidding the consumption of kosher lamb meat during Passover (provided it’s not a whole lamb). It’s all about how you read/interpret the meaning of the Torah. In many Sephardic Jewish communities, lamb is eaten on Passover for exactly the same reason that Jews avoid it. In fact, lamb is considered a delicacy, and is often only served for the Passover Seder as a “special occasion” entrée.

So… should you serve lamb during Passover? Again, it’s a question of tradition. If your family has never eaten lamb for the Seder, they probably won’t be comfortable changing things. But in many parts of the world, lamb is the Passover meat of choice. It all depends on how you choose to celebrate, and how adventurous you feel.

My lamb shank recipe can be enjoyed for a Sephardic-style Passover, or any day! In fact, it might just be the perfect meal for those of you wanting to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow. Lamb is a very Irish sort of meat. Enjoy!

A Note About Chicken Powder: The “chicken” consommé powder called for in the recipe is actually not made of chicken at all. It’s a common vegetarian ingredient in Jewish cooking that adds a savory, salty flavor to the dish without the need for meat. You can find it in the kosher section of the grocery store and at most Middle Eastern markets.

Recommended Products:

Serrated Vegetable Peeler

Large Pot

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4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large white onion, minced
4 lamb shanks
1 lemon
2 bay leaves
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
2 fresh thyme sprigs
5 whole cloves
1 cup dry red wine (ex. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux)
3 tbsp tomato paste
½ cup tomato sauce
1 ½ tbsp chicken consommé powder
6 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4
Kosher Key: Meat, Kosher for Sephardic Passover if kosher meat, wine, and Passover chicken powder and broth are used

Prep work:

– Use a potato peeler to remove the peel from the lemon, set peel aside. Juice the lemon, reserve juice.

-Wrap lemon peel, rosemary sprigs, and whole cloves in a patch of cheesecloth, tie up to form an herb bundle.

– Season lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper.

Heat a large, wide pot on medium. Sauté minced onions in 2 tbsp olive oil until they start to brown. Remove onions from hot pot and place them in a bowl; do not rinse pot. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to the pot and add seasoned lamb shanks, sauté until brown on all sides (about 12 minutes). Remove lamb shanks and put them on a plate, return onions to the pot. Add wine, tomato paste, lemon juice, herb bundle, thyme, tomato sauce and chicken powder, bring to a boil. Let mixture simmer for a few minutes, scraping up and brown bits that are stuck to the bottom and edges of the pan.

Place lamb shanks in pot and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer uncovered for a ½ hour. Turn the shanks and partially cover the pot. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 1 ½ hours, turning shanks once every half hour, until meat is very tender.

Remove shanks from the sauce and take out the herb bundle; squeeze all the herb juice from the bundle into the sauce. Skim the fat from the sauce, then simmer the sauce on medium heat for about 15 minutes until it’s thickened and reduced. Taste the sauce; add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Serve lamb shanks over mashed potatoes or polenta; spoon sauce liberally over the lamb before serving. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary on each plate.

Comments (11)Post a Comment

  1. What a wonderful Lamb Shanks Recipe!! It’s been hard to convince my kids to enjoy the Lamb, but I think this recipe is going to do the trick :-)! I also loved the APPLE PECAN PIE Recipe which I’m SURE my whole family will devour very quickly!!
    Thank you for inspiring me to get excited about cooking for Passover this year! Michelle from Chicago

  2. This is beautiful recipe. I am following your blogging with great interest! So many amazing dish, and you know they all look delicious. Lamb is my favorite. How do you keep it from getting to dry or tough? Thank you!


  3. Ya got me again! I know what I’m making this weekend for the fam! Thanks, Tori, and keep up the great work.


  4. Thanks Michelle, Galina and Ruthie, glad you’re enjoying the recipes! :)

    Galina, the slow braising in this process (searing the meat and the slow cooking over low heat) will make the meat super tender and moist. Give it a try!

  5. I actually JUST had this discussion with my parents about 10 mins ago. Even though I am Ashkenazi and my parents’ tradition is not to eat lamb at seder, I do it anyway. I just connect with the significance of the food. I do not, however, roast the meat. This is another distinction between Ashkenaz and Sephard on Passover for the same reason.

    In both cases, Ashkenazim specifically DO NOT eat them for the same reason that Sephardim specifically DO — to remember the Paschal Lamb sacrifice.

    And for those who are wondering, I always serve something else as well, so that anyone who doesn’t eat lamb at the seder isn’t forced to do so on my account! 😉

  6. Thank you sooo much for the Passover Seder Sample Menu! I am soooo happy to be able to refer to it and try some new fun recipes! My family won’t know what hit me as I have always prepared the same ol’ dishes year in and year out! PLUS, I have relatives joining us, and I’m looking forward to surprising them :)! I LOVE this Shiksa in the Kitchen Blog! :) Happy Pesach from Michelle in Chicago

  7. Hi Tori, Your recipes are fabulous…my husband is a massive fan !!! I have just made these lamb shanks but will be serving them later for dinner….is it best to heat the lamb for a couple of minutes in the oven before serving ?

  8. delicious! I made it today for Easter dinner. It was perfect. I did however, serve it with mashed yams. Potatoes would have been better but sadly, the potatoes I was counting on were unacceptable. But the rolls I made did work as an acceptable replacement. Wonderful recipe!

  9. Hello, I just watched John Stewart’s show, and Jason Bateman was on there and they were talking about a Passover meal Jason shared with a Jewish group. Jason mentioned they brought out a tray with a little bone on it and a little piece of bread, and John said something like “I got news for you, that’s not bread.” He never said what it was, but he seemed to be suggesting that it was something very unusual. I am dying of curiosity. What was the stuff that looked like bread but was not. Thank you.

    1. It may have been matzo, perhaps? (unleavened bread) I think the joke John was making is that there is no bread allowed on Passover, not that whatever he was looking at was particularly unusual or bread-like.

  10. Thank you Tori. That makes sense. I thought maybe it was something gross like lamb testes. ;-P Don’t know if that is kosher or not.

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