Braised Lamb Shanks
As we count down the days to Passover, I'm plotting the things I can make in advance so that the feverish day-of preparation is relatively stress-free. To put an amazing multi-coursed Passover dinner on the table, with all of the traditional foods represented, you have to work efficiently. Especially if you have a full time job (and family - both of the two- and four-legged variety - board commitments, and the general time-sucking upkeep required of a woman-of-a-certain age).
The seder plate features - among other foods - a lamb shank to symbolize the sacrifice we made when the Jews escaped Egypt. For years I would just buy the bones from the butcher. But then a couple of years ago I started braising lamb for dinner a week or so before Passover and saving the bones for the seder plate. It's a delicious new tradition. Just as I cook down leftover Friday night roast chickens to make chicken broth to freeze for matzo ball soup in the months leading up to Passover, so do I now braise lamb shanks in the weeks ahead so I can retrieve the bones for the seder plate. Lamb is a great springtime dish, and with Easter coming the day after Passover this year, you can find tons of lamb recipes online. Still, I love this one because it incorporates the same springtime flavors of fennel, leeks, garlic, lemon and white wine that I use to braise chicken, and it translates beautifully to lamb. I served it over couscous for a great one-pot meal.
You can't overcook lamb shanks as long as you're braising low and slow in liquid, so they're great for the crockpot. I made them on Sunday in between a political fundraiser we attended in the morning and a horse clinic I participated in that afternoon. I brined the shanks in kosher salt the night before, seared them in a pan, removed them and sauteed the fennel, leeks, garlic, lemon and white wine, scraping up the brown bits, and then tossed everything into the crockpot for a six-hour low braise.
Braised Lamb Shanks
2 Lamb Shanks
4 T Olive oil
1 Fennel Bulb chopped, fronds reserved
1 Leek chopped, white parts only
I Clove garlic, minced
3 Lemons - juice two, zest one and slice the third
1-2 C White Wine
Salt/Pepper to taste
Rub the shanks with kosher salt at least two hours or up to the night before and let rest uncovered in the refrigerator. In a heavy bottom pan heat olive oil on high and sear the shanks for about five minutes per side until lightly browned. Remove from pan. Reduce heat to medium and toss in the remaining three ingredients (fennel, leek, garlic) as well as the lemon juice and zest and saute until soft - about 10 minutes. Pour in the white wine and turn the heat back to high, scraping up the brown bits, and cooking out the alcohol, for about 10 more minutes. Place the shanks in the crockpot and pour the fennel/wine mixture in. Cover and cook on low for six hours.