Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb Shanks with Mint Yogurt

IMG_1471There are so many reasons to be happy and grateful when Matthew and Frances come to visit, and one of my joys is that I get to cook anything I want and I know it will be eaten with gusto. They have no food quirks, allergies or limitations and because they both work out every day I don’t have to worry about them gaining weight.

We love lamb, in all of its forms, and lamb shanks are a particular delight. I make it many different ways, but when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. Just the smell wafting from my kitchen was worth the effort and the actual taste was incomparable. It has a lot of ingredients, but it is not really difficult to make and requires no special skills. Since I do so much Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, I have most of the spices on hand already. If you want to wow your family or guests, this is a great dish to make. There is enough sauce to actually increase the lamb shanks to 6 or possibly even eight. The only challenge would be having a heavy pan with a lid that is large enough to accommodate them. If you keep Kosher or are lactose intolerant, you can omit the Yogurt Mint sauce, but it does add a wonderful flavor and texture.

Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb Shanks with Mint Yogurt adapted from D’Artagnan Recipes

Yield: 4 generous servings with additional sauce

Ingredients

4 Tablespoons EVOO

1 large onion, peeled, sliced in half and then in thin 1/2 moon slices

1 Tablespoon  peeled and minced fresh ginger

1 Tablespoon, peeled and minced fresh garlic

1 red chile, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon Harissa or Gochujang

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 large carrot, diced (I actually used julienned carrot, which I had bought and wanted to use up)

2 generous teaspoons ground cumin

2 generous teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon or more to taste of Aleppo pepper (or cracked black)

2 3-inch long cinnamon sticks

3 whole star anise

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 generous teaspoon oregano

4 Lamb shanks

1 24 0r 28 ounce can of peeled tomatoes, broken up

3 cups of chicken stock, preferably unsalted

20 high quality black or green olives WITH pits (I used canned green Mediterranean olives)

8 dried apricots, sliced

For the Mint Yogurt Sauce

6 ounces of plain Greek-style yogurt

1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves, torn

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons EVOO

Kosher Salt and Aleppo (or cracked black) pepper to taste

Drizzle of EVOO, preferably Meyer lemon infused

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large heavy Dutch Oven that can fit the lamb shanks in one layer, place the EVOO, onion, ginger,garlic and chile over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until they are frgrant and the onion begins to soften.
  3. Add the celery, carrot, cumin, coriander, star anise, cinnamon, turmeric and oregano and cook for 3-4 more minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, olives and apricots and increase the heat to bring to a boil.
  5. Make a couple of slits, into the meat of the lamb shanks and add the thems to the sauce. Cover the pan and place in the oven. Cook for about 2 to 2.5 hours, turning once until the meat is practically falling off of the bone.
  6. Mix the ingredients for the yogurt mint sauce, topping with the drizzle of EVOO.
  7. To serve, cook up some rice or couscous and serve one shank per person with plenty of sauce. Top with a dollop of the yogurt mint sauce. IMG_1469

NOTE: I served this with Shmura matza that was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar.

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