Braised Lamb Shanks

When I cook, I rarely follow a recipe to the word. Usually I start with a great ingredient or two, then an idea for a meal emerges. Next I consult a few of my favorite cookbooks and off I go - adding an ingredient here, using a different technique there. Not so with this recipe from the Alice Waters' Art of Simple Food. I have made her lamb shanks numerous times and am never temped to stray; I cannot help but follow her words as they lead to such a delicious end.

Eating lamb is something we don't often do, and this recipe is a celebration of just how succulent a treat it is. I've also cooked a goat shank this way and it was just as good.

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 dried chili pepper
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • zest from one lemon
  • chopped parsley
  • garlic clove minced

If possible, salt and pepper your shanks the night before. Place braising pan (I use my cast iron Le Creuset pot for everything) on stove top over med-high heat. Pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Brown shanks on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Peel carrots and onions and chop into large chunks. Cut whole head of garlic in half. Place carrots, onions, garlic, rosemary, bay, dried chili pepper, and peppercorns in the pan where the shanks were browned. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat until veggies begin to soften.

Add wine and tomatoes to pot. Cook vigorously until wine is reduced by half. Place shanks back in the bottom of the pot, nestled in amongst the veggies. Add enough chicken stock so that liquid reaches half way up the shanks. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 2 and a half to 3 hours. When meat is falling off the bone, remove shanks. Run sauce through a food mill, or puree in a blender and then strain. (I once pureed, but forgot to strain, and ended up bits of garlic husk the sauce.) Done right, the sauce is rich and thick with a nice hot kick from the chili pepper.

Reheat sauce and shanks. Prepare gremolata (a mix of chopped parsley, lemon zest and minced garlic) to sprinkle over the top of each plated shank. I like to serve the lamb over a bed of creamy polenta, or along side some warm crusty bread. You need something to soak up the scrumptious sauce.

4 generous servings


  1. Just curious, what kind of le creuset pot do you have? I am thinking of getting one, just wondering what size is good for everyday use. Thanks!

  2. We got the 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven over a decade ago as a wedding gift and use it all the time: for soups and stews; and P uses it to make jam. It's a great all purpose pot.

  3. I have a Le Creuset enameled cast iron braiser, which is shallower and broader. I'll try the dish in that.


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