Italian-Style Braised Lamb Shanks
The Abruzzo is a region on the Adriatic coast of Italy where, for centuries, raising sheep was the primary occupation. Every year, Abruzzese shepherds drove their flocks to the southeast to spend the cold months grazing along a more temperate part of the coast. In the springtime, the migration would occur again, but in reverse. Over time, towns were built along the shepherds’ route to accommodate their needs. This is just the sort of dish those shepherds would have enjoyed.
- 6 small lamb shanks, each about 3/4 lb.
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 small dried red chili, crushed, or pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Gaeta or other Mediterranean-style black olives
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pat the lamb shanks dry with paper towels and season them generously with salt and black pepper. In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot large enough to hold the shanks in a single layer, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the lamb shanks and cook, turning as needed, until well browned on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Tip the pot and spoon off the fat with a large spoon.
Add the garlic, rosemary and chili and sauté over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and tomatoes, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer the shanks, turning them occasionally, until the meat is fork-tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Stir in the olives and heat through. Divide the lamb among individual plates, spoon the sauce over the lamb and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).