Today, friends, I have a fantastic weekend dinner for you. One that you let cook all afternoon and then sit down with good wine and good company to savor. It’s the kind of dish you take a bite of and melt right into. The kind where you take your time to eat and drag it out because there’s good food, good wine and good conversation and you have nowhere you’d rather be. These are my favorite kind of meals.
I’m talking about lamb; specifically lamb shanks enhanced with some extra bones and meat from lamb necks. If you can’t source lamb necks no biggie. You can either leave that out or introduce and extra shank to the party. However, if you can source the neck bones, they have fantastic flavor and quite a bit of meat that is used to enhance and enrich the gravy. I highly recommend it. They also tick one more box that I won’t go too into today because, well, I just don’t have the energy to climb up onto my soap box and preach the responsibility of all carnivores and the merits of utilizing all parts of the animal from nose to tail. One day though, one day I will. I’m sure you’ll be waiting with bated breath.
The list of ingredients is short and the prep is very easy. Chop, drop and forget about it for a few hours. The most time you’ll spend on this dish is pulling the meat from the neck bones and reducing the sauce. Of course there is wine in the recipe, this is one of my recipes after all. I used a cab/merlot for this and used 3/4 of the bottle. I could have just gone for the whole bottle but I’m a firm believer in the cook having something to quench her thirst whilst slaving away in the kitchen. If you don’t come from the same school of thought, by all means, use the whole bottle in the recipe.
The recipe is only for the lamb but you’ll want to serve it with a couple of sides. I recommend mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts – skip the bacon if you use my version. Did I really just say, “Skip. The. Bacon.”? I need help. Professional help. But yes, I think it isn’t needed here because you know – gravy enhanced with the meat from the lamb. This time I also included oven roasted mushrooms. Mushrooms are sooo good and go very well here. Just leave them whole if they are small or halved if they are larger. Throw them on a sheet tray with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe some fresh thyme (optional – I did not). Roast at 200C (400F) for 15 – 20 minutes. For the last few minutes toss with a couple of cloves of finely minced garlic. You don’t want to put the garlic in at the beginning because it will burn and taste bitter.
I have to say I’m on a bit of a roll with inexpensive meals lately…. This one is maybe not as cheap as say the pea and ham soup but I’m estimating around $10 per person. That is of course dependent on being able to source affordable lamb which isn’t the easiest everywhere. This dish is impressive though and well worth the cost and effort (only time really) to produce. This is a restaurant worthy dish. It will not disappoint.
Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks – serves 2
- 2 lamb shanks
- 1/2 lamb neck – broken down into 2 or 3 smaller pieces (1 kilo (~2 lbs) lamb bones or one extra shank)
- Small Onion – diced
- 1 Carrot – peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic – minced
- 1 sprig fresh Rosemary – minced
- 3/4 bottle red wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 can diced tomatoes – good quality
- Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and pepper the shanks and necks. Heat a large, heavy bottomed dutch oven over high heat. Add a splash of olive oil and add your lamb shanks and necks to the pan to brown. Turn every few minutes and brown on all sides. If the meat does not release from the pan when you try to turn it, leave it alone. It isn’t ready. When it is browned it will release more easily. Do not crowd the pan and brown in batches if necessary. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
Add onion, carrot and onion to hot pan and saute until the onions are just translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Do not brown. Deglaze the pan by adding the wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape all the brown bits from the bottom. Add the meat back to the pan along with the beef stock, tomatoes and rosemary. Add enough water to just cover the meat. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn down to a slow simmer. Let the shanks cook for 2 – 3 hours checking on them occasionally. If too much liquid evaporates and the meat is exposed, top up with more hot water so the meat stays covered. Use hot water from the kettle so the cooking liquid does not drop in temperature.
When the meat pulls away from the bone easily your shanks are done. Remove from braising liquid along with the necks and set aside.
After removing the meat, turn the heat up on the braising liquid and bring to a slow rolling boil. Reduce the liquid until it is thick and glossy and gravy like. This could take 30 – 60 minutes. Meanwhile, when the necks are cool enough, pull the meat away from the bone and shred with your hands. Discard the bones and return the shredded meat to the reducing braising liquid. I also chose to clean up the exposed bone of the shank a bit to make it a bit more presentable for plating. This is totally optional but it only takes a minute and well worth it for the presentation.
Taste and add/adjust salt and pepper to taste. Return the shanks to the gravy to reheat through.
Serve and enjoy!
A note – This recipe is written for 2 servings. If you double it for 4 people, only add extra lamb shanks – 1/2 neck and 3/4 bottle wine and the veg measurements should still be sufficient for the recipe. Increase the beef stock to 3 cups instead of 2. Once the braising liquid is reduced there will still be plenty of gravy for 4 servings.