I'm not usually a big fan of red meat, but braised lamb shanks are an exception. Cook a lamb shank for long enough, and the meat becomes soft, almost cushiony, and relaxes away from the bone. This version, adapted from Food Wishes, combines three of my favorite lamb flavor partners: pomegranate, garlic, and rosemary. You can reduce the braising liquid right down to a sticky glaze, or leave it a little saucier and spoon it over rice or couscous. —ieatthepeach
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Ieatthepeach is a blogger extraordinaire living in California's Bay Area.
WHAT: Fruity, tangy, herby lamb shanks, braised low and slow in pomegranate juice.
HOW: Slow-cook lamb shanks in a bittersweet mess of pomegranate juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and herbs—then reduce that liquid, spoon it over the shanks, and shower with pomegranate seeds.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We loved the pomegranate juice-balsamic vinegar combo: It mimics the color and acidity of red wine, with a pleasantly sweet undertone that punches through the richness of the lamb. Depending on how much spice you like, you may want to add more red pepper flakes. And don't skimp on doling out the sauce when you go to serve the shanks, which, after 3 hours of braising, were falling off the bone. —The Editors
4 to 6
lamb shanks (3 to 6 shanks, preferably all about the same size)
Salt to taste
canola, peanut, or vegetable oil
sweet onion, sliced
(one 16-ounce bottle) pomegranate juice
balsamic vinegar, or to taste
large garlic cloves, crushed with the back of a knife
Preheat oven to 250° F, and position an oven rack in the middle. In a large, deep-sided, oven-safe pan (like a sauté pan, braiser, or Dutch oven), heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Season the lamb shanks generously with salt, then brown them very well on all sides. Transfer the shanks to a plate and set aside.
Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Lower the heat under the pan to medium. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is starting to soften. Add pomegranate juice, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Add balsamic vinegar, garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs, and chile flakes, and bring the liquid to a boil.
Return the lamb shanks to the pan, along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Let the liquid come back to a boil, then cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours (depending on the size of your shanks), until the meat is very tender and almost-but-not-quite falling off the bone. Remove the pan from the oven and let stand, covered, for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 150° F.
Transfer the lamb shanks to a serving platter or a rimmed baking sheet, and cover with aluminum foil. Place the shanks in the oven to keep warm. Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup or small bowl, and discard the solids. Let the liquid stand for a minute or two, so that the fat rises to the top. Use a ladle or spoon to skim off as much of the fat as you can—don’t worry about getting it all.
Pour the liquid into a small saucepan (or wipe out the pan you cooked the lamb in, and use that). Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Add honey and black pepper, then let the liquid reduce for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it’s the consistency you like. Taste and add more salt, chile flakes, vinegar, and/or honey as needed.
Remove the lamb shanks from the oven and spoon over the reduced braising liquid. Scatter pomegranate seeds (if using) over them. Serve warm. Leftover meat will keep, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
You can make the lamb up to a day ahead. After taking it out of the oven, let the whole thing cool completely and refrigerate (you may want to take the shanks out of the liquid and refrigerate them separately). The next day, scoop off as much of the solidified fat as you can, then reheat the shanks in the braising liquid. Transfer the shanks to a platter or pan, put in a 150° F oven to keep warm, then strain and finish the sauce as instructed.