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shanks a lot

Recipe: braised lamb shanks with lentils

***Message from Annie of Lava Lake Ranch: Fans of Use Real Butter, try out our lamb shanks and other cuts of sustainably raised grass-fed lamb and use promo code LLLblog12 to save 10% off all orders over $150. All profits go towards conservation projects on our ranch, so you can purchase knowing you are supporting a good cause.***

I’ve been a good girl.

I’ve been cleaning out my freezer. People keep telling me I just need to buy a second refrigerator/freezer, but I can only imagine how much more food I could potentially squirrel away and forget about if I had two freezers. No, it’s good to rediscover those little gems squished alllll the way in the back corner while they are still recognizable and consumable. So when Lava Lake Ranch shipped me some of their beautiful 100% organic, grass-fed lamb cuts earlier this month (FTC disclosure), I was determined to use the largest pieces – the shanks – first, to keep the volume of frozens down in my freezer. As luck would have it (or negligence, you pick) there were two more hind shanks from Lava Lake buried under several bags of green chiles on the lower shelf. Four shanks in total… sweet.

Knowing next to zippo about lamb, I asked the twitterverse if I should braise or roast the lamb shanks. Overwhelmingly, the twitterverse replied BRAISE. Lately I have had a hankering for lentils and thought what better way to enjoy the lamb than with lentils? Not to mention, there is nothing quite delightful as a slow-braised dish on a cold evening in the Colorado Rockies. So here’s the odd bit about this post… I can’t reproduce the recipe here, but I can list the ingredients and I describe what I did to make it. You can always head over to the Seattle Times for the original (but they don’t have pictures).

The first step after preheating the oven to 350°F was to sear the seasoned lamb shanks in a little oil on high heat in a Dutch oven. Searing all sides took about ten minutes for me, but it was worth it for the fond (that lovely brown crust) you get on the bottom of the pan. That’s the good stuff. That’s the FLAVOR.

cracked peppercorns, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, onion

salt and pepper to season the shanks

After removing the shanks to a plate, I had to add a bit more oil to sauté the onions, garlic, herbs, and spices. According to the recipe, I was supposed to have lamb fat left after the searing, but this lamb is pretty lean (either that, or I trimmed all of the fat before searing – it’s not like I know what I’m doing here). When the onions softened up, I added the amber ale and the chicken broth to the pot. Be sure to stir it about and dissolve the fond from the pan. Remember what I said about FLAVOR? Not only does it give your broth great flavor, but it makes cleanup so much easier. Once the liquid came to a boil, I placed the shanks back into the pot, put the lid on tightly, and set the whole thing in the oven for 90 minutes.

keep that fond in the pan

pour in the beer

place the seared shanks into the liquid

While the lamb shanks were braising away in the oven, I fine diced the vegetables: parsnip, carrot, celery, and leek. Personally, I would double the amount of vegetables the next time – they’re so very wonderful. I’d probably increase the amount of lentils too. It’s a meaty dish, so I tend to prefer a balance with more of the non animal ingredients.

we love the veggies

i should hang out with leeks more often

lentils and diced vegetables

After 90 minutes of braising (and hey, maybe it’s my elevation, but I think I’d let it braise for two hours) I took the pot out of the oven, removed the shanks, and strained the remaining liquid. The solids get tossed out. I let the broth cool for a few minutes before using my favorite de-fatting trick which involves a gallon ziploc bag, a knife, and careful timing. Works every time! I poured the broth, vegetables, and lentils into the pot and brought it all to a boil. Then I added the lamb shanks, covered the pot, and placed it back into the oven for 15 more minutes (which in hindsight, should have been another 30 minutes for my elevation to help the lentils along). At that point, the lid is removed and the pot stays in the oven for another 20 minutes to brown up the shanks.

strained broth

add the lentils and vegetables to de-fatted broth

put the shanks back into the pot one last time

The heady aromas emanating from the oven were so distracting. I mean come on – beer, onions, garlic, lamb? This dish is worth the wait, that is, if you like falling-off-the-bone tender lamb in a rich, complex, and deeply satisfying broth with earthy lentils and sweet root vegetables. The perfect winter dish and elegant enough for the holidays.

slow is the way to go

Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils
[print recipe]
recipe from The Seattle Times

1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each) trimmed of excess fat and connective tissue
salt and black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about a cup)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
12 oz. amber ale (I used Singletrack Copper Ale)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (more if necessary)
1 medium leek, white part only, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped fine (about ¾ cup)
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped fine (about ½ cup)
3/4 cup French green (Le Puy) lentils
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Follow the link above for method.

23 nibbles at “shanks a lot”

  1. kathy says:


  2. amy says:

    Love your pictures. The lamb looks just luscious!

    I’m a HUGE fan of lamb…So I’ll have to try out your recipe one of these days ; )

  3. My Little Expat Kitchen says:

    I love lamb and the combination with the lentils is great. The texture of the firm Le Puy lentils must be a great contrast to the melt-in-the-mouth lamb. Lovely dish!

  4. Michelle says:

    I love lamb shanks. I am not a huge meat eater but lamb shanks make me weak in the knees. Thanks!

  5. Phoo-D says:

    Marvelous- there is nothing more delicious or comforting in winter than a hearty lamb shank dish. These look fantastic.

  6. Caitlin says:

    Whoooaaa. Now that’s my kind of meal! Gives me one other reason to yell at my parents for getting rid of sheep and getting goats instead – braised goat isn’t nearly as tasty as braised lamb!

  7. Kerry says:

    WOW! Could you please for once make something that doesn’t make me want to lick the screen and/or stab it with a fork?

    I have only cooked lamb once, but this looks like such a common sense approach that I think I could handle it. Need to go ahead and make this while it’s still chilly here in Florida.

  8. swan says:

    ahhhh…jen…i am so glad you didn’t leave us for the winter! your food – EVERYTHING you make – is like is what i call “boulder crack”! i will make this for xmas eve.

    thank you!
    swan in san ramon, ca

  9. burkie says:

    jen, braised lamb shanks are one of my favorite things in the world, and i love the idea of preparing lentils with it.

  10. Rachel says:

    I usually do lamb shanks in the crock pot, but wow. I might have to try this on the stove.

  11. DianasaurDishes says:

    That’s gorgeous! I’ve still not cooked any lamb that wasn’t ground, I don’t know why I’m so nervous about it. I guess our food budget is so tight that I’ve been hesitant to buy meat I’m not sure how to cook, but you inspired me. I’ll buy some lamb for our Christmas Eve dinner!

  12. Annie says:

    Wow, lamb shanks have never looked so good! Love the pairing with lentils. I’ll have to try out this recipe over the holidays.

    Fans of Use Real Butter, try out our lamb shanks and other cuts of sustainably raised grass-fed lamb and use promo code LLLblog12 to save 10% off all orders over $150. All profits go towards conservation projects on our ranch, so you can purchase knowing you are supporting a good cause.

    Thanks for the post!

  13. Andrea says:

    Looks fantastic. I like lamb but can’t get the huz and boys to eat it, so I’ll have to live on memories of that awesome lamb burger at The Kitchen. *sigh*

  14. Nan@tastingoutloud says:

    This looks so goooood! Love lamb shanks. Love lentils. Have lamb shanks in my over-full freezer which also needs cleaning out, and have lentils. I think I see this dish in my near future!

  15. Joy says:

    That looks great. I never made lamb before.

  16. Blogging up a storm, with Lava Lake Lamb | Lava Lake says:

    […] Use Real Butter – Braised Lamb Shanks The heady aromas emanating from the oven were so distracting. I mean come on – beer, onions, […]

  17. iconicblue says:

    Lovely lovely recipe! I made it for xmas dinner and I can’t gush about it enough. There were only 2 of us, so I only used 2 large shanks and swapped celery root in for the parsnip. I can’t believe how delicious the broth was, the beer really took the flavor up a notch.

    This is my new favorite recipe.

  18. jenyu says:

    Caitlin – ha ha! I have never had goat before ;) But the lamb is indeed quite amazing.

    Kerry – I don’t eat lamb often, but I have to say this is the best lamb dish I’ve ever had. I love it.

    swan – yes, I’m still here! :)

    DianasaurDishes – just make sure you braise the shanks until they are super tender – I think that’s the trick :) Hope you enjoyed it!

    Annie – sure thing!

    Andrea – I suggest coming back to Boulder for another burger ;)

    Joy – I’m a lamb newb too – it’s not that difficult, really :)

    iconicblue – sounds great. I agree – that beer makes the broth!

  19. Pei Lin says:

    I know next to zippo about lamb too and I have had a very good one in a local bistro before and no where else I have eaten at is good enough. I will love to try making with the recipe you posted when I get a chance!

  20. Warm Green Lentil Salad with Caramelized Onions, Feta Cheese, and Pears Recipe — Andrea Meyers says:

    […] Use Real Butter – Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils {id:"post-7796",affiliate:"124c39197980088",size:"3"} ROUXBE COOKING SCHOOL & COOKING CLASSES Filed Under: Featured, Salads, Side Dish Tagged With: autumn, cheese, fruit, lentils, vegetarian, winter […]

  21. Fred Kehrle II says:

    Made this last night. Kept close to the recipe, added some thyme because I have a lot of it growing. My super picky G/F said that I have to make this dish again. I agree, very, very good. The broth is fantastic. Thanks for the recipe.

  22. Helen in CA says:

    Making this tonight…..and wondering what else to serve w/it. Thoughts?

  23. jenyu says:

    Helen – How about roasted cauliflower and a green salad?

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