I love this time of year. Not only is November home of Thanksgiving and my birthday—the two greatest dessert experiences per annum—but it's finally, definitely, and indisputably cold. While others pull out cashmere scarves and fleece-lined gloves, I pull out the enamel stew pots. It's braising season.
These sweet-tart lamb shanks fall of the bone with the prick of an eager fork. Tender, but bright, they don't lull the taste buds to sleep like many another seasonal stew. The meat is braised with windowpanes of garlic, dry white wine, rosemary, and lemon confit. Roasted pearl onions add a delicate, earthy sweetness that complements the deep citrus acidity of the lemon. The result is still comforting, with the braised, autumnal texture, but the flavor is pert and unexpected.
French food is not just about lavender and tarragon. I learned very early from Mémé, who grew up in Casablanca, that French food is heavily influenced by the many different spots that France tried to colonize. Merguez-frites is to the streets of Paris what hot dogs are to New York. Couscous is commonplace, and harissa is like ketchup. So, I thought I'd spice up a typical cottage dish by adding the Meghrébin staple of lemon confit, or preserved lemons. As I mentioned, they are a punch in the mouth—one that you'll enjoy.
Serve this with couscous for that French-Moroccan touch, with warm, torn baguette for a cottage feel, or warm white beans for a bit of French tradition.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons
- 2 lamb shanks (2 pounds total)
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 preserved lemons, thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 stem of rosemary, leaves chopped
- 1 cup thawed frozen pearl onions
- Salt and pepper
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a braising pan over medium to medium-high heat. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Sear on all sides until you have a golden-brown crust. Remove the lamb from the pan, and set aside. Drain out the olive oil.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pan, over low heat. Add the garlic and preserved lemon. Sauté for 1 minute, careful that the hot pan doesn't burn the garlic. Add the wine and the stock and rosemary and then place the meat back into the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, rotating the meat occasionally.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the pearl onions with 2 teaspoons olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After 2 hours have passed, uncover the pot of lamb. Add in the onions, and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, just to thicken the sauce slightly. It will already be gravy-like in consistency. Serve with couscous or baguette or warm simple white beans.