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Lamb shanks in a slow braise

Posted by Sheryl Julian  November 3, 2009 02:13 PM

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Icelandic lamb arrived at Whole Foods -- it's in season for another month. I eyed it skeptically (I love American lamb and also like supporting American products). The shanks were half the size of the American shanks sitting beside them. Both cost $5.99 a pound.

But I was too curious about the taste to pass up the little Icelandic shanks. New Zealand lamb is also small and, I think, tasteless. American lamb can have a sheepy quality, which I happen to like.

I braised these shanks in tomatoes and white wine. When you use red wine with strong-tasting meats, I think the sauce becomes too intense. I cooked them for 1 1/2 hours, added a couple cans of white beans, and continued cooking for another 30 minutes. I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I like them.

Braised lamb shanks with white beans
Serves 4

4 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, cut into slices
1 large Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 can (14 to 16 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1. Set the oven at 400 degrees.
2. Sprinkle the shanks all over with salt and pepper. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the oil and when it is hot, set the shanks in the pan. Brown them without moving for 3 minutes. Turn and brown another side without moving them. Continue until the shanks are browned all over. Remove them from the pan.
3. Add the garlic, onion, salt, and pepper to the pan. Lower the heat to medium and cook the onion, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Add the cumin and allspice. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, and water. Turn the heat to high. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture comes to a boil. Return the shanks to the pan. Add the bay leaf. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.
5. Cook the shanks for 1 1/2 hours or until they are almost tender.
6. Add the beans and stir them into the liquid in the pan. Recover the pot and return it to the oven. Continue cooking for 30 minutes or until the shanks are very tender.
7. Discard the bay leaf. Sprinkle the shanks with parsley and rosemary. Sheryl Julian

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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