French in a Flash: Fall-Apart Lamb Braised with Mustard and Mint

Fall-Apart Lamb Shanks with Mustard and Mint

Lamb shanks braised in a meaty gravy of wine, stock, grain mustard, and fresh mint become deeply savory and substantive, yet also fresh and different.

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Every other month I wait by my mailbox for my favorite magazine: Elle à Table. I pay a small fortune to import it from France, but it's worth every centime. It's full of all the glossy, chic, too-cool-for-school French recipes and hot spots and food trends, and I eat it up. It's offered me a few inspirations over the years, and this week I was heartily rewarded for my subscription fee.

I saw a recipe for lamb stewed with mustard and mint. I shut the magazine right there—I don't like to see the ingredients for fear that I'll copycat—and I set about making my own version.

Lamb shank, on the bone, seared in olive oil, and simmered in a broth flavored with shallots, garlic, beef stock, wine, Worcestershire sauce, whole grain mustard, and an entire bunch of fresh mint. The meat jitters in the pot for two hours until it just gives up and falls off the bone. The bone itself and the heat of the oven reduce the sauce until it coats a spoon in that deliciously velvety way that you know only means good things, and the top of the lamb gets crisp like barbecue. The Worcestershire makes it all taste like meaty gravy, and the whole grain mustard is surprisingly gentle, imparting a sweet sting to the broth.

But the pièce de résistance is the mint. Left on the stem, strewn haphazardly over the meat, and then baked for hours, it imparts a lightness and surprising savoriness to the dish. It's no surprise that mint goes well with lamb, but this goes so far beyond 1980's neon mint jelly that it's like coming to the discovery all on one's own.

I made this for our Sunday evening roast, and Mr. English didn't even look up from his plate until he peered at mine and asked, "Are you gonna finish that?"