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Lamb Shanks Roasted “a la Matignon”

In this recipe from Chef Thomas Keller, lamb shanks are cooked in the oven using a technique called a la matignon. This involves sautéing finely diced vegetables and then cooking them together with the meat, which creates a sauce and imparts an aromatic quality to the dish.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium lamb shanks, each 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • About 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water or low-salt chicken stock
  • 6 cups yellow onions (about 3 large onions), cut into 3/8-inch
      dice
  • 2 cups carrots (about 4 large), cut into 3/8-inch dice
  • 2 cups leeks (about 2 large), cut into 3/8-inch dice and rinsed
      well
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 bouquet garni (6 thyme sprigs, 6 parsley stems and 2 fresh
      bay leaves tied together into a bundle with butcher’s twine)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • Finishing salt such as sel gris
  • Cooked polenta for serving

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 275°F. Line a baking sheet with a couple layers of absorbent paper towels.

Remove the lamb shanks from their packaging and rinse well under running water, then blot them dry. Set the shanks on the paper towel-lined baking sheet and allow them to temper at room temperature. This will help the shanks to cook more evenly and quickly, as the temperature at the center of the meat will be more consistent with the temperature at the exterior. Tempering will also help you to achieve a better sear, as the meat will be less likely to cool the pan and the oil within it.

Generously season the shanks over all of their surfaces with kosher salt. Heat an All-Clad 4-quart essential pan over high heat. Pour in the 1/2 cup canola oil. When the surface of the oil begins to shimmer and you can just begin to see small wisps of white smoke, carefully place 2 lamb shanks into the oil with tongs. Sear the shanks until the surface has become a rich brown color, then slightly rotate the shanks to sear the adjacent raw surface. Continue to rotate and sear until the entire surface is evenly brown. You may need to adjust the heat to increase the color or prevent the lamb from burning. Remove the shanks from the oil and place them on the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat the searing process with the remaining shanks.

When all of the shanks have been seared, remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour out all of the fat. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Pour the water into the hot pan and use a wooden spatula to help scrape off any caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. When almost all of the liquid has evaporated, add the onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, bouquet garni, 1 Tbs. canola oil and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Stir the vegetables frequently until they just begin to become translucent. Add the red wine and increase the heat to high. Boil the wine until you can no longer smell the alcohol, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Use the tongs to carefully nestle the lamb shanks into the vegetables. Cover the pan with the lid. Return the liquid to a simmer, then transfer the pan to the center of the oven. Bake the shanks until they are extremely tender and almost falling off the bone, about 3 hours.

Reduce the oven temperature to its lowest setting or about 150°F. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to rest, covered, in a warm area for about 30 minutes. After the lamb has rested, use a large spoon to carefully lift the shanks out of the pan and transfer them to a warm serving dish or pan. Remove any of the vegetables attached to the shanks if you wish, then cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil to retain the moisture. Place the shanks back in the warm oven. Strain the vegetables and liquid from the pan through a coarse-mesh strainer and collect them in a bowl or pot. Quickly rinse and dry the essential pan. Discard the vegetables or reserve them for another use.

Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Allow the fat to rise to the surface, then pour the cooking liquid back into the essential pan. Place the pan over medium heat, add the vinegar and bring the liquid to a boil. Continue to reduce the liquid to a slightly syrupy sauce consistency, tasting the reduction frequently to determine the ideal flavor and texture. Remove the lamb from the oven and divide between serving plates. Strain the liquid again and nap each shank with the sauce and also sauce the plates. Finish the lamb with a coarse finishing salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately with polenta. Serves 4.

Recipe by Thomas Keller, Chef/Owner, The French Laundry