If you're celebrating Easter, you've probably already got plans for tomorrow night's supper, but if not, I've found this recipe, adapted from The River Cottage Meat Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, ideal for a Sunday afternoon. I'm posting it a little ahead of schedule, just in case you want to get to the butcher and grab some lamb shanks. Because you're braising the shanks—a great way to handle a cut that can otherwise be easily overcooked—you've got time to go out and attend church or visit with family while the oven does most of the work. Once the lamb is tender, it's only a matter of finishing the sauce and serving with some appropriate sides. I like this one because I can still do lamb without cooking a very large piece or going through a large amount of fuss to have a taste of this traditional Easter dish.
- 4 lamb shanks
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- A few sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 bottle of white wine
- 1 cup water
- Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- Juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped parsley, to garnish
Heat some of the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole, add the diced vegetables, and sweat, without browning, until tender. Add the thyme, bay, garlic, tomato paste, wine, and water, along with most of the citrus juice and zest (reserve a few pinches of zest and a tablespoon of each juice). Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Heat a little more olive oil in a separate pan; brown the lamb shanks on all sides, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Add shanks to casserole; cover with lid. Transfer to a about 250°F oven; cook for about 2 1/2 hours, until meat is completely tender and falling off bone.
Remove shanks from pan; keep warm while you finish the sauce.
Skim off some of the fat from the surface; taste the liquid for seasoning and intensity. Boil to reduce if it needs it. Stir in reserved lemon and orange juice to refresh the citrus flavor. Serve the shanks on warmed plates with a generous amount of sauce spooned over and sprinkled with a little parsley and a pinch of citrus zest. Accompany with mashed potatoes, soft polenta, or creamy beans, such as butter beans or cannellini.