Balsamic-Braised Lamb Shanks

October 16, 2014
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

This is my favorite way to braise lamb shanks -- there’s warm spice and fresh herbs for comfort, good syrupy balsamic vinegar for depth, and white wine and orange zest for brightness. —Cara Nicoletti

  • Serves 2
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 celery ribs, cut into chunks
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, de-stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs thyme, de-stemmed and finely chopped
  • Zest of 1/2 a large orange
  • 1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
In This Recipe
  1. Whisk flour, salt, black pepper, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon together. Roll the lamb shanks in the flour mixture until they are coated.
  2. Heat a small Dutch oven (3 to 6 quarts) over medium-high heat and sear the lamb shanks on all sides until a good crust forms -- this will take 8 to 10 minutes total.
  3. Transfer lamb shanks to a plate and preheat your oven to 325° F.
  4. Scrape any crusty bits from the lamb-searing off the bottom of the Dutch oven (don’t discard, just scrape them up to loosen them and prevent them from burning).
  5. Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, thyme, and orange zest. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Stir in the vinegar and cook until it has evaporated slightly and thickened further, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Return the lamb shanks to the pot and pour the white wine and chicken stock over them. Season the broth with salt to taste, cover the pot, and place it in the oven until the meat is very tender and falling off the bones, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  8. Remove the shanks from the pot, covering them with foil to keep them warm, and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Discard the solids.
  9. Cook the sauce over medium heat until it has reduced by half (it should yield about 1 1/2 cups). This should take 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Season the sauce to taste and pour it over the lamb shanks.

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Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog,, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.