Our long-time friend Merry Sue was going to be staying overnight with us so we wanted to prepare an elegant, yet simple meal. After assuring that she did indeed like lamb, we went to one of our tried and true braising wizards, Molly Stevens, and found this Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic & Vermouth (Souris aux Aulx) recipe.
Given that I was gallery-sitting all afternoon the day she arrived, and wouldn’t be home until the evening, The Hubs smartly braised the shanks the day before (see tip below). The entrée was paired with two other tried-and-true side dishes: Dorie Greenspan’s Celery Root Purée and a most recent Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots.
As there were only three of us and the recipe fed six, we halved only the number of shanks but kept all of the other ingredients at full throttle. In fact, if you are making six shanks, you may want to double everything else for the extra sauce. The recipe enhances the flavor of lamb. It is truly delicious and so simple to make; elegant enough for a dinner party or special occasion, yet it’s quick to prep, and is almost effortless as a casual supper.
TIP: The dish can be made up to three days ahead. After braising, transfer the shanks to a baking dish. Strain and season the sauce as directed in the recipe. Pour a little strained sauce over the shanks to moisten them. Refrigerate the shanks and the sauce separately, both tightly covered. Before serving, reheat the chilled sauce, pour it over the shanks in the baking dish, cover the dish with foil, and warm in a 325ºF oven for about 30 min. Finish with the herbs and black pepper, and serve.
Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Vermouth
- 6 lamb shanks (3/4 to 1 lb. each)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup dry white vermouth, preferably Vya or Noilly Pratt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 heads garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
- 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice; more as needed
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, preferably a mix of mint and parsley (chervil and chives are also good)
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. If necessary, trim any excess fat from the lamb shanks, but don’t trim away the thin membrane that holds the meat to the bone (we mistakenly did). Season the shanks all over with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or other heavy braising pot large enough to accommodate the lamb shanks in a snug single layer. When the oil is shimmering, add half the shanks and brown them on all sides, 12 to 15 min. total. Set the browned shanks on a platter. Repeat with the remaining shanks. When all the shanks are browned, pour off and discard the fat from the pan.
- Set the pan over medium-high heat and add the vermouth. As it boils, stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve any drippings. Return the shanks to the pan, arranging them as best you can so they fit snugly. Tuck the bay leaves in between the shanks and scatter the garlic over them. Cover and braise in the oven, turning the shanks every 45 min., until fork-tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
- Transfer the shanks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Tilt the braising pot to pool the juices at one end and skim off and discard any surface fat. Pour what remains in the pot into a medium-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard the bay leaves. With a rubber spatula, scrape over and press down on the garlic cloves so the pulp goes through but not the skins; be sure to scrape the pulp clinging to the bottom of the strainer into the sauce. Whisk in the lemon juice. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if needed. To serve, pour the sauce over the shanks and shower them with the chopped herbs and a little freshly ground pepper.
Original recipe compliments of Molly Stevens