It was a dark and stormy night….well, it snowed about 1 foot last night, and I was in the mood for a warm hearty stew. When I looked in the freezer, what should I find but two beautiful lamb shanks, about 1 ½ lbs. each. I was looking for some stew meat so this was like Christmas. As soon as I saw this treat I decided on a braise and never looked back.
My dilemma was that I find that many braises taste very similar and I wanted something special. Of course there are differences in flavor between different braise recipes, but when you add a healthy amount of red wine and tomato paste, the basic flavor of these two ingredients tend to mask the subtleties in the different meats. Of course you can tell the difference between lamb and beef or between beef and pork, but I wanted to braise the lamb shanks so the meat would stand out while still maintaining the wonderful richness a braised dish has.
After reading a slew of recipes, I started my creative adventure. Sometimes this works out exactly as I want and sometimes I create gastronomic disasters of epic proportions. Anyway, this one worked out pretty well.
Pour the vegetable stock into the pot, add herbs wrapped and tied in the cheesecloth, and heat to a low boil. Return the lamb to the pot cover tightly and place in the oven for about 1 Â½ hours (times differ due to altitude, your oven and how much of the wine that didnât go into the braise that you drank)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Check the pot occasionally to be sure there is enough liquid
Remove the pot from the oven, remove the lamb to a plate, strain out the onion, garlic and herb packet, skimming off the fat
Return the stock to the pot and add in all of the vegies and the lamb
Return the pot to the oven for an additional 45 minutes
Remove the pot from the oven, transfer the lamb to a plate, tenting with foil to keep it warm
Place the pot on the stove and simmer to thicken
Using a stick blender, puree about Â½ of the vegies so the stock is creamy with some nice vegetable bits.