Make Ahead

Coffee-Infused Braised Lamb Shanks and Beans

April 19, 2011
2 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 4, among friends who are willing to share a shank
Author Notes

With spring lamb in season and an ample supply of dried beans from a local heirloom bean CSA, I've been wanting to create a variant of the classic lamb shanks braised with white beans. The coffee theme was an inspiration. For the lamb shanks, I created a rub of ground coffee, toasted cumin seeds, rosemary, red pepper flakes and garlic. For the broth I combined the flavors of star anise and cinnamon, as well as more cumin and smoked paprika, and to contrast with the bitterness of the coffee, I added dates and sun dried tomatoes. The final flavor was intense and complex. The beans I used were a lovely heirloom variety called Arikara, cultivated by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, that are slightly darker and earthier than white navy beans, but these would be a good substitute. The final dish is quite rich and a half shank suffices for a serving, along with a generous portion of the flavorful beans. I recommend degreasing the final broth, which is most easily done by cooking the dish a day in advance. To brighten the final dish, garnish with a mixture of orange zest and parsley. - Fairmount_market —Fairmount_market

Test Kitchen Notes

Beans and beans; what a clever take on the theme. Coffee beans and broad beans and the interesting combination of ingredients made it a must try for me. I used good quality white limas ( Rancho Gordo) for this recipe but you could use any good broad bean (Christmas Limas are one of my favorites!).
The lamb was flavorful and meltingly tender and the beans well-seasoned and creamy without being complete mush. Cooking it a day ahead gives all of those ingredients a chance to make friends and then you have the pleasure of an already made dish to serve. The lemon and parsley add a lovely brightness to the deep earthiness of this great cold weather dish! —Annie stader

What You'll Need
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground dark coffee beans
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 to 3 celery stalks
  • 8 pitted dates
  • 12 sun-dried tomato halves (not in oil)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground corinader
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups dried Arikara or white navy beans
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsely
  1. Prepare the coffee spice rub for the lamb: Heat a small skillet and toast the cumin seeds for a minute or so until fragrant, and transfer to a mortar. Put the garlic cloves in the skillet and toast for several minutes, turning, until they develop some brown spots and start to soften. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems, chop, and add to the mortar. Add the ground coffee, red pepper flakes, coarse sea salt, and peeled garlic cloves and smash well until the cumin seeds are crushed and you’ve created a smooth paste. You could also use a spice grinder or small food processor to prepare the rub. Coat the lamb shanks with the paste and let sit for a few minutes to infuse the flavors while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Soak the sun dried tomatoes in 2 cups boiling water for 15 minutes. Dice the onions and celery. Dice the dates and the sun-dried tomatoes, reserving the tomato-flavored water. Heat the oven to 325° F.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven or other ovenproof pan and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Over medium low heat, brown the lamb shanks on all sides, taking your time so that they have a chance to brown. Remove to a plate.
  4. Add another splash of olive oil if necessary, and put the onions and celery into the pot. Cook, stirring, until they are glassy. Add the ground cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the diced dates and sundried tomatoes and cook another minute. Add the red wine and cook another minute. Add the rinsed beans, the reserved tomato-flavored water and three additional cups of boiling water. Nestle the lamb shanks into the beans, pouring in any juices that accumulated and add the star anise and cinnamon stick. Salt and add more boiling water if necessary to ensure that the beans are covered by 1 inch of liquid.
  5. Heat the beans and lamb shanks on the stovetop until the liquid is simmering and then cover the pot and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for about three hours, turning the lamb shanks occasionally and adding a little water if necessary, until the beans are tender and the lamb meat is falling off the bones. Toward the end of the cooking period, you could remove the pot lid to allow more of the liquid to cook off. The dish will be quite rich from the lamb fat and benefits from degreasing. You may want to cook this a day ahead, refrigerate it overnight, and then remove the hardened fat from the surface, and the reheat. Alternatively, remove pools of liquid fat from the surface with a spoon.
  6. Serve a generous portion of beans topped with a whole or half lamb shank. To prepare the garnish, chop together orange zest and parsley leaves and sprinkle over the lamb before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Esther Molnar
    Esther Molnar
  • JohnZ
  • Annie stader
    Annie stader
  • Claire Atkinson
    Claire Atkinson
I'm a biology professor and mother of two, and in my (limited) free time I love to cook, which is much more forgiving than laboratory science. Last year I helped start a farmers market in my neighborhood, and to promote it, I created a food blog: I enjoy the challenge of coming up with recipes for local, seasonal ingredients and finding fun ways to cook with my children.

8 Reviews

Mschief January 18, 2018
Can I cook this is crockpot?
Emily D. December 4, 2017
This is quite delicious. I would cut down on the salt a bit. I was concerned that the dates would make it too sweet but they balance the other flavors well. I added some pitted green olives. I would make it again.
Esther M. July 1, 2016
This recipe is just perfect !
JohnZ January 25, 2016
Beautiful recipe; thank you! Soaked the beans overnight (Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman beans), added one fennel bulb, and used the bean soaking water. Even with the soaked beans, it took a bit longer than 3 hours but was well worth the wait!
naomisachs April 1, 2015
I did soak the beans (Rancho Gordo Christmas Limas) only note is that you really should grind the coffee very fine - otherwise a little gritty texture will be your reward, trust me. Delicious though, everyone raved!
Steve W. February 28, 2015
No need to soak beans overnight??

Looks great - can’t wait to try.
Annie S. February 26, 2015
This dish was truly delicious! Congrats on the Community Pick!
Claire A. October 25, 2013
looks really good!