Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

Braising season has definitely arrived in the Pacific NW so we decided to dust off one of our favorite braising recipes. I love lamb in general so I was immediately smitten with this dish when Mike served it to me on one of our earliest dates. I was so taken with the dish that Mike claims I didn’t speak for 10 minutes and he feared that something was wrong (alas, he couldn’t have been more wrong). That night, he actually served it over parmesan mashed potatoes but we now sometimes alternate preparing it with the white bean dish as it was originally intended. The mashed potatoes are amazing with it but the white beans give it a healthier edge.

Braised Lamb Shanks over White Beans

The recipe is originally from Gourmet Magazine. We used 2 mammoth-sized lamb shanks and otherwise scaled the proportions of the recipe in half.


Lamb Shanks:

6 lamb shanks

2-4 T. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped coarse

4-5 carrots, chopped coarse

3 ribs celery, chopped coarse

8 garlic cloves, chopped coarse

1 bottle (3 1/3 cups) Bordeaux or Cabernet wine

4 cups chicken stock

3 T. tomato paste

2 sprigs (or more) fresh thyme

Gremolata:

3 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves, minced

Gremolata:

2 T. olive oil

2 small onions, chopped fine

2 carrots, chopped fine

2 celery, chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 cans cooked white beans (Great Northern or Navy were recommended but we typically use and enjoy Butter Beans)

2-2 ½ cups chicken stock

2 T. unsalted butter

1 bay leaf

To FINISH:   (we’ve never done this part)

1 T. unsalted butter

1 T. chopped tarragon leaves

Directions

First things first. The recipe didn’t mention this part but I guess it’s assumed for the experienced chef. I took on the task of meat preparation that Mike normally does. After he demonstrated the process for me, I worked on removing both the fat and the “silver skin” (which lends a gristly quality to meat). The key is to remove both while removing as little meat as possible. I have to admit it took me quite a while, but these were also enormous shanks. It definitely made me appreciate Mike’s meat-cleaning skills.

Next, pat lamb shanks dry and season well with salt and pepper. In heavy Dutch oven (we use our Le Creuset) over moderately high heat, brown shanks well in batches, transferring to a plate as browned. Then add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté until onion is softened. Add wine and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups. Return lamb shanks to pot and stir in broth, tomato paste, and thyme. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer, covered, stirring and turning lamb shanks occasionally for 1 hour. Uncover the pot and simmer the shanks another 1.5-2 hours, until shanks are tender.

Lamb Shanks Braising

TO MAKE THE GREMOLATA (while lamb is cooking): In a small bowl, stir together ingredients and set aside.

TO MAKE THE BEANS while lamb is cooking. In a saucepan, heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add beans, 2 cups broth, butter, and bay leaf and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and adding enough broth to keep beans moist and to reach a creamy consistency, about 45 minutes. Discard bay leaf and add half of gremolata and salt and pepper to taste.

White Beans Simmering with Veggies

TO SERVE: Place serving of beans in a shallow bowl, top with shanks and vegetables, then sauce from shanks. Finally, sprinkle with gremolata.

Lamb is Served!

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