In this dish I combine green olives with one of my favorite meats, lamb shanks, and two of my favorite vegetables, celery root and fennel. If you haven't used celery root or fennel before, this dish is a great way to start. Their mellow nuttiness combines perfectly with the tangy olives and the savory lamb. It's an instant trip to the Mediterranean on a cool autumn day, and you don't even have to buy a plane ticket. You can pull the meat off the bone and serve it as a stew, or keep the lamb shanks intact for a more elegant presentation. Like most stews and braises, this tastes even better the next day, so make it ahead if you have the chance. —Abra Bennett
Test Kitchen Notes
If you're in the mood for a rich, comforting stew but want something with a bit of flair, this dish is for you. Abra Bennett has you simmer lamb shanks in a heady broth of red wine, stock, fennel, celeriac and aromatics until the meat falls from the bone, adding sundried tomatoes and green olives two-thirds of the way through. The resulting dish is complex and addictive: fennel and shallot melt into the sauce, the olives leech some of their brine and become almost artichoke-like in flavor, the sundried tomatoes soften and mellow, and a finishing splash of Pernod and a shower of freshly grated lemon zest cut thorugh of the fattiness of the lamb. Speaking of fat, you may want to drain some of the oil in the pan after browning the lamb (we kept about 3 tablespoons). We also reduced the sauce by simmering it for a few minutes after the meat was cooked. - A&M —The Editors
Salt and pepper the lamb shanks liberally. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Brown the lamb shanks all over. Take your time with this and get them really nice and brown. Remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.
Dice the fennel bulb into small pieces. Peel the celery root and dice into the same size pieces as the fennel. Peel and chop the shallots and garlic. Lightly brown the vegetables in the pan used for the meat. When the vegetables are browned add the meat back to the pan. Add the bay leaf, the bouquet garni, the wine, and the broth. Cover the pan and simmer over medium low heat for 1 hour.
Add the olives and the sundried tomatoes to the pot. If necessary, add a little more wine or broth. Simmer, covered, an additional 30 minutes, or until the meat is nearly falling off the bone.
If you'd like to emphasize the fennel flavor and bring out the mellowness of the olives, add a splash of Ricard or Pernod. This really does enhance the dish, and is very Mediterranean. Taste the sauce and add additional salt and/or pepper to taste. Just before serving sprinkle the lamb with the finely grated lemon zest (use a Microplane if you have one).
You can gently pull the meat off the bone and serve it as a stew, or as a sauce over pasta. You can also serve these on the bone as is, or over polenta. Be sure to mention to your diners that the olives contain pits!