Mediterranean Lamb Shanks with Israeli Couscous Salad

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Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 520 minutes
Servings: 6

After a long stint in the slow cooker, lamb shanks turn meltingly tender in this satisfying dish, which gets a pop of color from bright red pomegranate seeds.


For the lamb shanks:

  • 4 to 6 lamb shanks, about 1 lb. (500 g) each, trimmed of most fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) brandy
  • 1 can (15 oz./470 g) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) beef broth
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) pomegranate seeds

For the mint vinaigrette:

  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint

For the couscous salad:

  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 1/2 oz./265 g) Israeli couscous
  • 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


Season the lamb shanks generously all over with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is hot, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, add the shanks and sear, turning as needed, until golden brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the shanks to a slow cooker.

Pour off most of the fat from the pan and return it to medium-high heat. Add the onion, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice and sauté until the onion is golden, about 7 minutes. Pour in the brandy and stir to dislodge any browned bits on the pan bottom. Stir in the tomatoes and broth, then pour the mixture over the lamb shanks. Cover and cook on the low setting for 8 hours. The meat should be very tender.
About 30 minutes before the lamb is tender, make the couscous salad: To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Stir in the mint. Set aside.
To prepare the couscous, in a saucepan over medium heat, warm the canola oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the couscous and stir until the couscous begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the broth, 3⁄4 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the couscous is tender and all the liquid is
absorbed, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and fluff with a fork.

Transfer the lamb shanks to a large plate. Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan, let stand for a few minutes, and then skim away the fat with a large spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Pull the meat from the shanks and discard the bones. Leave the meat in chunks or shred with 2 forks.

To serve, mound the couscous salad in a shallow serving bowl or platter. Top with the warm lamb, spoon some of the braising juices over the top, garnish with the mint and pomegranate seeds, and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker: Fresh Recipes for the Modern Cook, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2010)

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