Braising, in my book, is the most useful wintertime survival skill a person could know. It’s low effort and high yield, warms up your house with the long cook time , and almost always tastes better after sitting for a day, making it ideal for company or for weekend cooking that can be eaten throughout the week. If the idea of cooking lamb scares you, rest assured that this is a very easy lamb recipe; however, if your grocer doesn’t carry lamb, you can use a small chuck roast instead. Regardless of the meat you choose, you can complete the dish by nestling it into a big pile of mashed roasted acorn squash, mashed potatoes, rice, or another starch of your choice.
Braised Lamb Shanks
Special equipment needed: Dutch oven or another heavy lidded pot that can go from stove top to oven
4 thick cut strips of bacon (or a couple more regular strips)
2-3 lamb shanks
2 stalks celery, diced
1 fat carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed (do this with the side of a knife or a heavy skillet)
A few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 cup dry red wine (PLEASE use something you don’t hate to drink. I love garnacha here, but your favorite dry red will do)
2-3 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium high heat until crisp and most of the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan and either save the bacon for another use or start snacking.
3. While the bacon is cooking, dry the lamb shanks and season with salt. Once the bacon is done and removed from the pan, brown the shanks in the bacon fat on all sides. Remove the shanks to a plate.
4. Add the celery, carrot, onion, and a healthy pinch of salt to the Dutch oven and saute until light golden brown, then add the garlic and thyme and saute for 20-30 seconds more.
5. Pour the wine into the Dutch oven and stir, making sure to scrape up all the delicious brown bits and incorporate them into the wine. Add the shanks back to the pot, then pour in enough chicken stock so that the shanks are between 2/3 and 3/4 submerged in the liquid. Add the bay leaf and another couple pinches of salt, then bring to a simmer on the stove. Cover, then move the pot to the oven and cook for roughly two hours or until the lamb is tender and easily removes from the bone. Turn off the oven and let the meat cool a bit in the oven for an hour or so, then serve. Leftovers are excellent, if they make it that far.