I’ve mentioned before that Tom and I aren’t big Valentine’s Day people. We don’t really do anything special to celebrate it. That said, spending so much time on food boards, food blogs, and…well, just being a person who generally enjoys cooking, I’ll typically use it as an excuse to make something I may not ordinarily make. Normally, that thing is a baked good, but this time, there was just no way I was doing that. I felt horrible most of the weekend, and the thought of doing anything remotely intense in the kitchen was not at all appealing to me. For that reason, I hadn’t really planned on making anything special at all, but then I remembered I had a couple lamb shanks in the freezer from Lava Lake Lamb, and decided to make those. It’s not every day we eat lamb (sadly) and shanks are so good when braised, which, thankfully for me, is incredibly easy to do. The dutch oven does all the work for you, really.
I made these quite simply with your standard (or, at least, my standard) braising liquid – broth and wine. I always like adding just a bit of tomato paste to braising liquids because I feel like a little goes a long way in terms of depth of flavor. Since I only made two shanks, I used my smaller casserole (3 qt.) rather than my larger dutch oven. I did have to brown the shanks separately, but otherwise the size was perfect so that the braising liquid went high enough up the pot (covering about half of each shank).
These were delicious, flavorful, and indulgent. Even though braising has such a comforting/homey feel to it, there’s also a great richness that comes from it. I served this with a simpler version (AKA, one that did not have me standing over the stove stirring for 40 minutes) of barley orzotto/risotto with mushrooms & pecorino. I think it was the perfect complement, although some mashed cannellini beans, polenta, or mashed potatoes would be wonderful as well.
Braised Lamb Shanks for 2
2 lamb shanks
1 medium onion, cut in half and then thinly sliced
1-2 sprigs of thyme, or a scant 1/2 tsp. dried
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup beef broth
Heat a dutch oven or pan with high sides over medium heat and add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom. Season the lamb shanks liberally with coarse salt and pepper, and then brown in the oil on all sides. Remove from the pot.
Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the onion to the pot, along with the thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown and slightly caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and bay leaf until the garlic is fragrant.
Increase the heat to medium-high, and then add the red wine to deglaze. Scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot, and then add the beef broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the shanks back in, put a lid on the pot, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour, preferably closer to 1.5-2 hours. Then, remove the lid, increase the heat a bit, and cook an additional 20 minutes to allow the liquid to thicken. (If you want it even thicker, you could always make a water/corn starch slurry and boil it at the very end). Plate the shanks and spoon the reduced braising liquid over the top.
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