Ancho-braised Lamb Shanks

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This recipe that Chef Ryan Clark of Lodge on the Desert in Tucson, AZ, shared with me is one of those “low & slow” cooked dishes that’s perfect to start in the morning on a chilly day.  You’ll put it in the oven with a full gallon of chili-spiked braising liquid which, simmered down for four hours, still leaves plenty to reheat and glaze the shanks for several reprises. Served with little pearls of Israeli couscous, rich gravy & a sauce of preserved lemon, mint, garlic and Greek yogurt, these ancho-spiced shanks make a meal full of bright flavors.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ancho-Braised Lamb Shanks Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

  • 4 lamb shanks, 16 to 20 ounces each

  • 2 tablespoons canola or grape-seed oil

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons salt

  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1 large white onion, roughly chopped

  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped

  • 2 ribs celery, chopped

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 cup dry red wine

  • 1 gallon veal or beef stock

  • 4 whole dried ancho chilies

  • 1 package Israeli couscous

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • 2 teaspoons finely minced preserved lemons, optional

  • 3 teaspoons fresh chopped mint

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest

  • Arugula or radish sprouts, optional


  1. Heat oven to 325. Place garlic cloves with 1 teaspoon water in a foil packet in oven. Roast, 20-30 minutes until garlic cloves are soft.

  2. Stir salt, pepper and cumin together in a small bowl. Rub mixture into the lamb shanks.

  3. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet. Cook lamb shanks, in batches if necessary, until well browned on all sides, 12 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

  4. In the same skillet, saute onion, carrot and celery until softened and golden brown, 10 minutes.

  5. Remove garlic cloves from oven; squeeze pulp from skins. Add garlic to skillet. Pour in wine; cook, stirring up browned bits from the pan as it reduces. Add as much beef stock as will fit in the pan along with bay leaf; heat to boiling.

  6. Place the lamb shanks in a very large roasting pan. Pour hot stock and vegetables over the meat.

  7. Wearing gloves, snip the stems off ancho chilies, remove seeds; add ancho chilies to pan. Heat remaining beef or veal stock until boiling; add to the roasting pan.

  8. Cover roasting pan tightly with foil; roast in 325 oven, 4 hours.

  9. Remove pan from oven; cool shanks and vegetables in braising liquid. Refrigerate until well chilled, or overnight.

  10. To serve: Heat oven to 350. Skim fat from the pan. Remove the shanks. Strain out the vegetables from the braising liquid. On your stovetop, In an oven-proof pan over medium heat, reduce braising liquid by one-third. Add shanks to the pan; place in oven. Spoon braising liquid over shanks every 5 minutes until shanks are heated through and glazed with the braising liquid.

  11. Meanwhile, toast couscous in a hot skillet until golden brown. Cook couscous in well-salted boiling water following package directions. Season to taste with salt pepper and a little butter.

  12. Mix yogurt, preserved lemons, mint and garlic together to make a sauce garnish.

  13. To plate, place a mound of couscous in a serving dish, top with a lamb shank. Spoon braising sauce over all. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt sauce, finely grated lemon zest and a sprinkling of fresh sprouts

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