Recipe: Rosemary Braised Lamb Shanks with Creamy Polenta

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(Image credit: Olive and Mango)

Braised lamb shanks used to be one of those dishes I ordered exclusively in restaurants. Between the fall-off-the-bone meat and the rich sauce scented with herbs and layered with flavor, this luxe-seeming meal felt intimidating to make at home. As it turns out, this meal is much more doable than it lets on (it’s actually pretty foolproof!) — here’s how to do it.

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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

4 Steps to Really Good Braised Lamb Shanks

Like any braised meat, lamb shanks are easier to pull off than you might think. To make it more approachable, I think it’s helpful to break down this braise into four steps: searing, sautéeing, adding the liquid, and cooking in the oven. The first few steps are hands-on, but once the lamb goes in the oven it doesn’t require much attention.

  • Sear the meat: You’ll start by searing the shanks in a Dutch oven or braiser. If the pieces of meat are large, it’s helpful to work in batches so you don’t crowd the pan.
  • Sauté the vegetables: Next, the lamb shanks are held on a plate and the vegetables are sautéed until soft.
  • Add the liquid: The pan is deglazed with red wine and reduced by half, before the remaining liquid (canned tomatoes and beef broth) are added to the pan.
  • Cook in the oven: Once the liquid comes to a boil, the lamb shanks are added back to the pan. The pan is covered and left to cook in the oven for two to two-and-a-half hours.
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(Image credit: Olive and Mango)
16 Ratings

Rosemary Braised Lamb Shanks with Creamy Polenta

Serves4 to 6

Prep time: 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours

Ingredients

For the lamb shanks:

  • 4

    bone-in lamb shanks (about 4 pounds total)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1

    large yellow onion, chopped

  • 1

    large carrot, peeled and chopped

  • 2 stalks

    celery, chopped

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups

    dry red wine

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    whole peeled tomatoes

  • 1 cup

    low-sodium beef broth

  • 3 tablespoons

    chopped fresh rosemary leaves

  • 3

    fresh thyme sprigs

  • 1 tablespoon

    red wine vinegar

For the polenta:

  • 4 cups

    water

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 cup

    yellow cornmeal (coarse, medium, or fine)

  • 1 cup

    finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)

Instructions

Make the lamb shanks:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F.

  2. Pat the lamb shanks dry with paper towels, then season all over with the pepper and 2 teaspoons of the salt. Heat the oil in a braiser, 6-quart or larger Dutch oven, or wide heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high until shimmering. Working in batches if needed, sear the lamb shanks until browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer the lamb shanks to a large plate.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour, stir to coat the vegetables, and cook 1 minute. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half and thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

  4. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, broth, rosemary, thyme, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, breaking the tomatoes up with the wooden spoon. Return the lamb shanks to the pan and arrange in a single layer, pushing them into the sauce so they’re about halfway covered with liquid.

  5. Cover and place in the oven. Cook, flipping the lamb halfway through, until the meat is very tender and pulling away from the bone, 2 to 2 1/2 hours total. Stir in the vinegar, cover again, and set aside to rest on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving. About 30 minutes before the lamb is ready, make the polenta.

Make the polenta:

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in the salt and cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until the polenta is smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

  2. Cover and cook, stirring every 10 minutes and scraping up the sides, bottom, and corners of the pan, until creamy and tender, about 30 minutes total. Remove from the heat, stir in the Parmesan, and cover to keep warm.

  3. To serve, divide the polenta between bowls. Top with a lamb shank, then spoon the sauce over the lamb and polenta.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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