Since next week is going to be all about the bird, I decided to give my husband lamb this week. Everyone in my family loves lamb in all of its forms, but I especially love lamb shanks because they are so easy to make in so many different ways and they are always hearty and delicious. They may not be a show-stopping “company” dish, but anyone who eats this homey meal will be glad that they are considered family.
The lamb shanks I got were on the large side – about 1.5 pounds each, so just two of them will give me dinner for four. However, sometimes they come a lot smaller, so how much you use will depend on the size of the shank. The presentation has a bit more of the wow factor when you serve someone an entire shank, but the taste is just as wonderful if you serve the meat off of the bone, as I did here. Whoever does get the bone will have the added plus of getting the marrow to enjoy. Careful measuring is not necessary here. And if you don’t have flageolet beans, those wonderful pale green, small, slightly kidney-shaped French beans, then use a good white bean – a Great Northern or cannellini or some large heirloom bean. This dish takes LOTS of garlic and fresh rosemary, but the slow cooking removes any of the bite from the garlic, leaving just that wonderful flavor where you can eat entire cloves and go “yummmmmmmmm.” I made it last night in a Dutch oven for tonight’s dinner. You could probably do this in a slow cooker as well once you have browned the lamb.
Lamb Shanks with Flageolet Beans
Yield: Serves 4
2 cups flageolet or large dried white beans, soaked for 8 hours or overnight
3 Tablespoons EVOO
1 onion, chopped
1 generous Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
10-12 cloves of fresh garlic
3 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted
4 lamb shanks – about 1/2 -3/4 pound each
About 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, seasoned with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper and whatever dried herbs you like (oregano, thyme, rosemary) for dredging
1 pound baby carrots
2 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash or pumpkin puree (optional)
1/4 cup hearty red wine (whatever you plan on drinking with this or whatever you have left-over) (optional)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Dredge (this just means roll the shanks in the flour to coat) the lamb shanks in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess
- In a Dutch oven or covered casserole dish, heat the EVOO. When the oil is hot, place the shanks in and turn and cook on a medium high heat until nicely browned. Add the onion and stir until softened.
- Drain the beans. Add all of the other ingredients to the casserole. If you are using salted chicken stock, only add about a teaspoon of salt at this point. You can always add more later.
- Bring to a heavy simmer, cover the Dutch oven/casserole and reduce the heat so the ingredients simmer but do not boil. This can then be cooked on the stove for 2.5 hours or in a 325 degree preheated oven, until the lamb is practically falling off of the bone and the beans are tender. Check occasionally and give a stir to make sure that nothing is sticking and that you have enough liquid. If it is getting a bit dry, you can add more stock. Taste and adjust your seasonings to taste.
- This can all be done ahead and warmed when you are ready to eat it. I think it actually gets even more rich and flavorful if made a day ahead. Serve with bread and salad.