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The inspiration for this recipe comes from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food, where the shanks and garlic are cooked with nothing more than a bit of water. This one has dry white vermouth and a few bay leaves to give the braising liquid an herbaceous flavor that permeates the meat and intensifies the dish. Lamb has a lot of fat, so be sure to take the time to thoroughly skim the sauce before serving. Better yet, braise the shanks a day or two before you plan to serve them (see Make-Ahead Tips, below).
- 6 lamb shanks (3/4 to 1 lb. each)
- kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup dry white vermouth
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 heads garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, more as needed
- 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh herb, preferably a mix of mint and parsley (chervil and chives are also good)
- Tip: After the long braise, the garlic cloves are tender enough to push through a sieve, creating a flavorful purée that thickens the pan sauce. Don’t forget to scrape the pulp clinging to the bottom of the strainer.
- Vya and Noilly Pratt are preferred brands of vermouth.
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F If necessary, trim any excess fat from the lamb shanks, but don’t trim away the thin membrane that holds the meat to the bone. Season the shanks all over with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or other heavy braising pot large enough to accommodate the lamb shanks in a snug single layer. When the oil is shimmering, add half the shanks and brown them on all sides, 12 to 15 minute total. Set the browned shanks on a platter. Repeat with the remaining shanks. When all the shanks are browned, pour off and discard the fat from the pan.
- Set the pan over medium-high heat and add the vermouth. As it boils, stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve any drippings. Return the shanks to the pan, arranging them as best you can so they fit snugly. Tuck the bay leaves in between the shanks and scatter the garlic over them. Cover and braise in the oven, turning the shanks every 45 min., until fork-tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
- Transfer the shanks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Tilt the braising pot to pool the juices at one end and skim off and discard any surface fat. Pour what remains in the pot into a medium-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard the bay leaves. With a rubber spatula, scrape over and press down on the garlic cloves so the pulp goes through but not the skins; be sure to scrape the pulp clinging to the bottom of the strainer into the sauce. Whisk in the lemon juice. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if needed. To serve, pour the sauce over the shanks and shower them with the chopped herbs and a little freshly ground pepper.
- Make Ahead Tips.
- The dish can be made up to three days ahead. After braising, transfer the shanks to a baking dish. Strain and season the sauce as directed in the recipe. Pour a little strained sauce over the shanks to moisten them. Refrigerate the shanks and the sauce separately, both tightly covered. Before serving, reheat the chilled sauce, pour it over the shanks in the baking dish, cover the dish with foil, and warm in a 325ºF oven for about 30 minute Finish with the herbs and black pepper, and serve.
- Serving Suggestions.
- Fill out the meal with a potato gratin and a refreshing heap of green beans.