Braised Lamb Shanks

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Perfectly cooked lamb shanks are a breeze if you braise them slowly enough and turn them three or four times while they are cooking. A heavy cooking pan just large enough to hold them one layer deep is essential. Letting them stand, covered, in a warm place for twenty minutes after they are cooked is important to achieve the melting texture that makes them so wonderful. Eat them merely braised, grill them after they have been braised, or take them off the bone to use in stews.

Ingredients

  • 4 lamb shanks, cut from the foreleg
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • ½ tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 quart chicken, lamb, veal, or beef stock
  • 1 cup aioli
  • 24 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 each large red and yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut in fine julienne
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or marjoram leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Method

Heat the oven to 300°F.

Season the lamb shanks heavily and put them in a casserole or heavy pot with the unpeeled garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs. Brown over medium heat for 15 minutes, turning them every 3 minutes. Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Cook until the shanks are very tender, about 2 hours.

While the shanks are cooking, blanch the mint leaves in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, squeeze dry, and puree with the rosemary and 2 tablespoons stock in a blender. There should be a slight texture of the leaves in the puree. Mix into the aioli and let sit to develop the flavors.

Remove the shanks when they are done and keep warm and covered.

Pour the remaining stock into the cooking pot and bring to a boil, scraping loose any meat juices that have stuck to the pot. The moment the stock boils, turn off the heat and skim off all the fat. Bring the stock back to a boil and reduce the liquid to 2 cups. Keep skimming off any fat and scum and do not let any fat boil into the stock.

Strain the stock. Put the peeled garlic cloves in the stock and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the garlic and stock separately.

Put the shanks, garlic, peppers, stock, marjoram, and a pinch of salt in a sauté pan. Cook over medium heat, turning the shanks a couple of times, until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes.

Put the shanks on warm plates. Stir the butter into the peppers and season. Spoon the peppers and garlic cloves around the shanks. Spoon some aioli over the shanks and serve the rest separately.

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