Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Vegetable Hash


I love cooking lamb shanks low and slow until they're fall-apart-tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I usually braise them with red wine or Moroccan spices, so I was intrigued by Molly Stevens' recipe for Lamb Shanks Braised with Lentils and Curry in her cookbook, All About Braising. I'm glad I tried it because it made me think of lamb in a whole new way. This is my take on her recipe.

I used rendered duck fat because I always have some on hand for high temperature cooking, which you need in order to brown the meat and vegetables before you braise them. Alternatively, you could use ghee.

If you can, use French Le Puy lentils. These small, dark legumes hold their shape better than the larger lentils that are lighter in color and tend to get a little mushy. If those are your only option, stir them into the vegetable mixture after an hour of cooking.

I cooked two lamb shanks but feel free to add another another one or two to the pot. It won't change the cooking time and there will be plenty of vegetable hash. To serve the meat more like a condiment, pull the fully-cooked lamb meat off the bones and arrange it on top of the lentils. Served like this, two shanks can feed four people.

Make this recipe detox-friendly by substituting golden beet for the carrot.

2 lamb shanks at room temperature, pre-seasoned with sea salt 24 to 48 hours in advance if possible
Rendered duck fat, enough to cover the bottom of the pan
1 large red onion, cut into small dice (about 1½ cups)
1 large carrot, cut into small dice (about 1½ cups)
5 celery sticks, cut into small dice (about 1½ cups)
10 crimini mushrooms, cut into small dice (about 1½ cups)
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground peppercorn
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves, loosely packed
1 cup diced tomatoes and their juice
2 bay leaves
1 cup Le Puy lentils, soaked for several hours
2 cups bone broth
2 cloves garlic
1 organic lemon
2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Warm the duck fat in the bottom of a large, heavy cast iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb shanks on all sides. Take your time with this step and do it well to ensure a really flavorful finished dish. They should be a deep brown color before you move on to the next step.

Once the lamb shanks are well-browned, remove them from the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms. Cook the vegetables until they start to brown. Stir in the sea salt, peppercorn, curry powder, and thyme. Continue cooking until you can smell the spices, about 1 minute more.

Add the bay leaves and lentils. Stir in the tomatoes and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Stir in the bone broth. Add the lamb shanks back to the pot, nestling them into the vegetable mixture.

Cover the Dutch oven tightly, transfer it to the oven, and reduce the heat to 275°F. After 1 hour, turn the lamb shanks over and stir the vegetable mixture. If it looks like it will need more moisture, stir in a splash of boiling water. Return it to the oven and cook until the lamb is very tender, about another 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the shanks.

Remove the lamb shanks from the Dutch oven and cover them loosely to keep them warm. Remove the bay leaves. Grate the garlic into the vegetable mixture and stir to incorporate it thoroughly. Zest the lemon into the pot and juice half the lemon. Stir in the parsley. Taste it for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments. If you don't use the other lemon half, reserve it for another purpose.

Spoon the vegetable hash onto a serving plate and nestle the lamb shanks on top. Serve immediately.