Last night, I was a sous chef. I am so not the sous chef type. So NOT the sous chef type. If you knew me, you would know this to be true. I prefer my husband assist me while I do the heavy lifting needed to whip up something fun and delicious. But last night, I let go (albeit briefly) and was sous chef to my husband who wanted to make New Year’s Eve dinner.
His ambitions were large: Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks
Now my husband is a great cook. He is the master of our grill and both smokers. He has a keen understanding of how to add amazing rub, smoke, wood or fire flavor to meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. I am often his prep chef when we grill or smoke for loads of friends and family; I make the wet and dry rubs, side dishes and dessert. Last night, I fell back into that role and offered advice while I prepared his mirepoix and made dessert.
Braising is one of my favorite ways to cook. My own signature dish is Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short Ribs. The husband loves that dish, so decided to apply it to an equally-inexpensive cut of meat, lamb shanks (a.k.a. arm/shoulder of lamb). Here’s how he did it.
Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks
- 2 lamb shanks
- 1/4 cup prepared dry rub
- Olive oil
- 2 organic carrots, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 organic onions, roughly chopped
- 2 organic celery stalks, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 bottle good red wine (We used Cabernet Sauvignon)
- Salt and pepper to taste
First, wash and dry the lamb shanks with a paper towel. Sprinkle your desired rub on all sides of the lamb. (I make my own rub and always have a tub in the pantry. You can buy your rub online, or make your own as well.)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, 325 if you use convection, like we do. Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottom shallow pan, that has a lid. (We used our white Le Crueset buffet casserole pot.) Brown the lamb on all sides, takes about 10-12 minutes. Remove lamb from pot and set aside.
Add mirepoix of carrots, onions, celery and garlic to the pan. Cook until wilted a bit.
Add 2 sprigs of rosemary. Return the lamb to the post, nestled amidst the vegetables. Pour entire contents of 1 bottle of good red wine into the pot, or as much as will fit. (Ideally, the wine would cover the shanks completely. Ours didn’t, so we turned them often.) Let the wine come to a boil. Once boiling, cover the post and transfer to your oven.
Cook the lamb shanks, covered, in your oven for up to 3 hours. Every hour, we turned the lamb shanks, to ensure that they evenly absorbed that luscious wine. When the wine reduces, add water to ensure the shanks are always covered with liquid.
The lamb shanks are ready when the meat is just about to fall off the bone, or to whatever texture you prefer. Some like their lamb very soft and mushy, others prefer a firmer meat. We braised our lamb shanks for about 2 hours and 50 minutes. The husband than seasoned the lamb with salt and pepper, and served it with some freshly sauteed broccoli.
We set the table, lit a few candles and dug in. As we said good bye to 2007, I was so thankful to have a husband who wanted to cook for me, who wanted to put together a nice plate, and who wanted to set a nice table. He had opened a lovely bottle of wine from our honeymoon an hour earlier, to let it breath, and we sipped and ate and talked about the great food. We then settled in on the couch with our wine and our hopes for a better 2008, one filled with great food and wine, but better yet, great conversations and adventures for the two of us.