These Herb Braised Lamb Shanks are delightfully tender and aromatic. Long, slow cooking renders a normally tough cut of meat extremely tender. Rosemary, red wine, and other aromatics infuse the meat with flavor. Served over mashed potatoes or polenta, these lamb shanks are a comforting, hearty entree for cold weather months.
You might be new to cooking lamb shank. It’s one of the less well-known cuts of meat. But don’t be intimidated! Lamb shanks are affordable and relatively easy to prepare. All it takes is some time and patience to turn them into a delicious meal.
First, let’s go over some of the basics.
What is a Shank of Lamb?
The shank is the shin portion of the leg bone. It is typically a tough cut of meat, like brisket, and requires low and slow cooking to make it tender. Lamb shanks are most often braised whole, as seen in this recipe, but they can also be cross cut into smaller pieces.
How to Cook Lamb Shanks
For best results, you’ll want to sear your lamb shanks, then slowly cook them. This tough cut of meat does best with low, long, and slow cooking. Adding aromatics like onion, garlic, and herbs will infuse the meat with flavor as it cooks. Liquids like broth and wine meld with the aromatics to create a flavorful sauce during the slow cooking process.
Are Lamb Shanks Expensive?
Typically, lamb shanks are very inexpensive compared to other lamb cuts. In fact, it’s one of the most affordable cuts of lamb you can find. While they may often be overlooked for their strange shape or toughness, lamb shanks cook up nice and tender with the right sort of recipe (like this one!). This recipe is a great way to turn a simple, inexpensive cut of meat into something mouthwateringly delicious.
Can you Overcook Lamb Shanks?
It’s actually very difficult to overcook lamb shanks. As long as you keep the heat low, even, and slow, they’ll become more and more tender over time.
Is Lamb Served for Passover?
I have been asked this question a lot through the years, so I thought I’d address it in this post. Some Jewish traditions avoid serving lamb for Passover, while others make it the centerpiece of their Seder meal. 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.
However, in many Sephardic Jewish communities, lamb is eaten on Passover for exactly the same reason that other Jews avoid it. In fact, lamb is considered a delicacy, and is often only served for the Sephardic Passover Seder as a “special occasion” entrée.
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.
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.
This Herb Braised Lamb Shank recipe can be enjoyed for a Sephardic-style Passover, or a cold winter afternoon, or just because. Enjoy!
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- 4 lamb shanks
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large white onion, minced
- 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 (Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux)
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Use a potato peeler to remove the peel from the lemon, set peel aside. Juice the lemon, reserve juice. Wrap lemon peel, bay leaves, 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, and tomato sauce, 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 sauce 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.