Lamb shanks are the type of meat that needs to be braised. Some form of wet heat needs to be applied to this meat for an extended period of time in order to break up all the connective tissue. This collagen-rich tissue once cooked for long enough breaks up into gelatin. Gelatin, by the way, is a really great thing to have in a sauce. It thickens and enriches the sauce and gives it a shine. So, by braising this kind of meat in a good, flavorful liquid and making it tender and delicious, we also end up with a great sauce to go along with it. It’s a winning combination, and that’s why braising is so popular. When you are about to braise something, it’s always nice to brown it a bit. This adds flavor and color to the dish. It also makes the braised stuff look better before, during, and after the braising process. This time I decided to brown everything by roasting it on a pan in the oven for 20 minutes.
- 2 lamb shanks
- 2 heads garlic, whole
- 3 carrots, whole
- 8 small onions, whole
- 3 small tomatoes, whole
- 2 celery stalks, whole
- 2 Tbsp Moroccan spices (see below)
- Olive oil to coat everything
- 1 bottle dry white wine
Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Shank Recipe: Oven-Roasted with Whole Vegetables and Braised with a Bottle of White Wine
- Get together the lamb shanks and vegetables. Lamb shanks are much easier to find than they used to be thanks to the rise in popularity of lamb. They come in a few different sizes. These are smaller than the ones I used the last time. But I’m guessing that’s because these are actually lamb and the others were mutton (adult sheep). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Get the lamb shanks ready to roast in the oven. If you can find them, use smaller carrots and leave the tips and the skin on. It will look very cool. Remove only the outer layer or loose onion and garlic skin. Slice the top off one of the garlic heads to get more flavor out of it. Rub the lamb shanks liberally with the spice mixture. And rub everything with a little olive oil to help it roast.
- Remove the roasted lamb shanks from the oven. Put the cookie sheet in about the middle of the preheated oven so that it gets an even heat. After about 10 minutes, check the shanks and vegetables and maybe flip them over or turn them around with a pair of spring-loaded tongs. After 20 minutes, everything should be nice and brown and can be removed from the oven.
- Put the roasted lamb shanks in a braising pan. Lay the lamb shanks in the bottom and arrange the roasted vegetables alongside of them. Scrape anything off the cookie sheet that you can. You can deglaze it with a little water and put that in the braising pan along with an entire bottle of dry white wine. Cover with aluminum foil and the lid and put it in the oven.
- After an hour of braising, check the lamb shanks. Take the braising pan out of the oven and carefully remove the foil to check the lamb shanks and see how they are coming along. Approximately half of the liquid should be gone. Re-cover the lamb shanks, put them back in the oven and set a timer for one more hour. If you are concerned about the liquid levels, check after 30 minutes.
- When the lamb shanks are tender, they're done. Check them again after an hour. They should be done at this point. And most of the liquid should also be gone. If they’re not done, add a cup of water and put them back in for 30 minutes. When done and rested for 20 minutes, arrange them on a platter with the whole vegetables and that yummy pan sauce.
Tips & Tricks
- Remember, smaller lamb shanks are a good thing. That means that they probably came from a lamb instead of an older sheep. The flavor of lamb is milder than that of mutton or adult sheep.
- The garlic that I am using for this recipe is fresh garlic. It is a seasonal thing and I just love the way it looks. Come August and September I’ll buy a bunch of it and hang it up in my kitchen for the winter.
- These lamb shanks are really good with a bit of cous cous and green beans.
Moroccan spice mix recipe
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp white pepper