In this recipe, the lamb is braised in Moroccan spices until it is "fall off the bone tender" and is paired with a flavorful herb salad for an impressive entrée fit for a dinner party.
In this recipe, the lamb is braised in Moroccan spices until it is “fall off the bone tender” and is paired with a flavorful herb salad for an impressive entrée fit for a dinner party. I love playing around with different spices from different parts of the world. The spices in this braise are a version of the common Moroccan spice combination, ras al hanout — a warm combination of cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cayenne.
Braising is the method of cooking meat at a low temperature for a long period of time in a tightly sealed container. It’s forgiving and it allows for tough cuts of meat to break down and become tender and juicy. Check out other comforting braise recipes here.
Key Ingredients in This Recipe
Lamb shanks – Lamb shanks are the muscular bottom portion of the lamb leg and due to that muscle they can be tough. Braising the meat in the oven allows for the connective tissue to break and for the meat to become tender and flavorful. While they take a little longer to cook they are worth it, as they also are a cheaper cut of meat so they are great when you are cooking for a larger group of people.
Spices – The lamb is seasoned with a warm, fragrant combination of cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and cayenne. This combination of spices is called ras al hanout which can be purchased as a pre-mixed spice though it can differ brand to brand. The name translates to “top of the shop” – the best spices in the store.
Chicken stock – Chicken stock is typically made from chicken bones as well as aromatics and vegetables while chicken broth is made with the meat. How does that affect their flavor? Chicken stock has a much richer, more robust flavor which comes from the collagen released from the simmering bones. On the other hand, chicken broth is much more mellow in flavor. I typically use chicken stock when cooking. In a pinch the chicken stock can be substituted with water though it takes away some of the flavor.
Crushed tomatoes – Canned crushed tomatoes are a blend of diced tomatoes and tomato puree. The tomatoes are first cooked and peeled before they are diced.
How to Make Braised Lamb Shanks
Heat oven. Preheat oven to 325º. Heat a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat through.
Season the lamb and sear. Season the shanks with salt and pepper then working 2 at a time, brown the shanks on all sides. Set aside and repeat with the remaining shanks.
Cook the aromatics. Lower the heat to medium then add the onion and sauté until tender. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
Make the ras el hanout. In a small bowl stir together the cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and cayenne until completely combined.
Deglaze the pan. Add to the pot and let the spices cook until fragrant, about an additional minute. Add the chicken stock to deglaze the pan followed by the tomatoes and lamb shanks then bring the mixture to a boil.
Braise the lamb. Cover tightly with the lid then place in the oven and braise until the meat is falling off the bone, about 3 hours. Rotate the lamb about every hour.
Reduce the sauce. Remove the lid and raise the heat to 350ºF, and continue to bake until the lamb browns lightly and the liquid reduces, uncovered. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Make the pickled onions. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk the vinegar and sugar together until combined and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the onion to a small bowl and pour the mixture over the top.
Toss with the herbs. Let sit for 5 minutes then drain the pickling mixture and add the onions to a medium-mixing bowl. Add the parsley, cilantro, mint and lemon zest. Toss with the olive oil and season with salt.
Plate and serve. Serve the lamb shanks in bowls topped with the herb salad over the top. Add the remaining sauce to a bowl and serve on the side.
Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these: