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Braised Lamb Shanks


4 pounds meaty lamb shanks, bone-in*

Spice Blend (recipe follows)

Kosher salt

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, rough chopped in large pieces

3 carrots, peeled and rough chopped in large pieces 12 cloves garlic, 6 whole and 6 finely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly ground cumin seed

2 tablespoons freshly ground coriander seed

2 teaspoons freshly ground fennel seed

½ teaspoon ground chile d’arbol (or cayenne)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1½ cups dry white wine (something you would drink)

6-8 cups beef or chicken stock, preferably homemade—a combination works

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses or honey

½ cup pomegranate seeds, to garnish

1 tablespoon each finely diced dates, dried apricots, currants, dried sour cherries (any or all will work), to garnish

1 teaspoon finely diced preserved lemon (available at Middle Eastern markets)

4-6 servings couscous, basmati rice, or mashed or roasted potatoes

Spice Blend

4 tablespoons freshly ground coriander

2 tablespoons freshly ground cumin seed

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons freshly ground green cardamom seed

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon freshly ground allspice

2 teaspoons freshly ground fennel

2 teaspoons freshly ground caraway


  1. Trim lamb shanks of large fat caps or visible silver skin, but leave some fat intact. You can also ask your butcher to prepare the shanks this way for you. Generously sprinkle shanks with Spice Blend and massage until well coated. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours. Remove rubbed shanks from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Season all sides liberally with kosher salt.
  2. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  3. Heat large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat and add several tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. When oil is shimmering, but not smoking, carefully add shanks and brown all sides. Let a good sear develop before turning. Remove browned meat and set aside.
  4. Drain fat from pan until just 2 tablespoons remain. Add onion, carrots, and whole garlic cloves. Season with salt. Stir occasionally until onion is translucent.
  5. Move vegetables to one side of pan and add another 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil to exposed part of pan. Quickly add minced garlic and let sizzle until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Immediately add ground spices to garlic and let bloom about 10 seconds.
  6. Cover garlic and spices with tomato paste; mash in with back of spoon until well-incorporated and tomato paste begins to cook. Push onions and garlic back to center of pan, and stir until all vegetables are well-coated with tomato paste mixture.
  7. Continue to cook until fond develops in pan (i.e., vegetables and liquids thicken, browned bits stick to bottom of pan and vegetables start to caramelize), about 5 to 10 minutes. Add white wine to deglaze, swirling wine around pan. Let alcohol cook off, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Return shanks and any juices to pan, placing on top of vegetables. Add stock and cinnamon stick. Shanks should be submerged halfway, with tops exposed. Cover tightly with foil and place in oven.
  9. Baste shank tops with braising liquid every hour until completely cooked and almost falling off bone. Remove from oven, leave covered with foil. Let rest 1 hour.
  10. Carefully remove shanks from braising pan and place on rimmed sheet pan. Strain braising liquid into metal bowl placed within larger bowl filled with ice. Let chill.
  11. Skim fat off top and remove 3 cups liquid. Transfer liquid to small saucepot, reserving remaining liquid. Cook over low heat until reduced and thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add lemon juice and pomegranate molasses or honey to make sauce.
  12. Meanwhile, gently pull meat off bone in large chunks, but do not shred.
  13. To serve, heat braising liquid and very carefully add pulled meat. Gently heat until warm.
  14. Heat sauce in separate pan.
  15. While components are heating, combine diced dried fruit with preserved lemon.
  16. To serve, place meat on plate atop couscous, mashed or roasted potatoes, or basmati rice. Ladle sauce over all, sprinkle on dried fruit and preserved lemon mixture, and then finish with pomegranate seeds.

*You may need more or less lamb, depending on how meaty the shanks are. Plan on about 10-12 ounces, with bone, per person, before cooking.

Spice Blend
  1. Mix all spices together well.
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