I have a personal Chef assignment this weekend. I really enjoy these assignments/gigs. It gives me a chance to once again go gourmet and do some really neat things with some really neat ingredients. The entrée of choice for the dinner is Lamb Shanks. So I bought some to experiment and try different flavors profiles. I did them a couple of different ways, but by far, this was the favorite of my family and the one I will be doing for my clients on the weekend.

A couple of tips to getting flavorful tender shanks. One, braise for a long time in a heavy, airtight, dutch oven. I just happen to have a new one – a Christmas gift, I know, is like the best gift ever to give someone. I know! The second thing is to season the shanks well with salt and pepper before browning them in some olive oil in the pot. So read the recipe and make this for your family. It is for a planned out sit down formal meal for a special occasion like the weekend, a birthday, anniversary etc. You can substitute most any kind of meat if you don’t want to do lamb, veal shanks would work just as well as would beef short ribs.  As always – enjoy!

Braised Lamb Shanks
6 lamb shanks
1 large onion
2 stalks celery
1 large carrot
2 – 3 bay leaves
1 pod garlic (yes I said pod, the whole thing)
1 x 156 ml tin tomato puree
1 x 700 ml tin San Marzano Tomatoes
450ml Red wine – Cabernet Sauvignon, full bodied, good drinking wine
Olive oil, Salt and Pepper

Set your oven to 350F
Remove the silver skin from the shanks, season well with salt and pepper
Loosely chop the onion, carrot and celery, clean the garlic and put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until it is a fairly small chop/puree
Put some olive oil into a large heavy bottomed Dutch oven, get the oil good and hot
Sear the shanks 3 at a time – any more than that and your pot will lose too much heat and the meat will stew rather than sear
When good and caramelized on all sides, remove and continue with the other shanks until all are done – cover
Drain the excess fat from the pan, top up with some more olive oil – let it get hot again, then add your onion puree mixture – sauté and cook for about 20 minutes
You may recall a short rib recipe I put on this site a long time ago, it is the same technique I use repeatedly to bring out some incredibly intense flavors of garlic, caramelized onion, carrot and celery in braising dishes such as these)
Don’t rush the 20 minute cooking of this mixture – grab a glass of cheer and sit down, read an article, catch up on your emails etc – set your timer for 5 – 7 minute intervals and stir every time alarm goes off – you should see some of this mixture coating the bottom of the pan, just scrape this up – don’t let it burn, and keep stirring. I find a wooden spoon with a flat edge works really well to scrape this mixture loose from the bottom of the pot
After 20 minutes – add the puree all at once – continue to stir and let the puree cook to bring out additional tomato flavor – add the tomatoes, stir, add the wine – stir
Add the lamb shanks and any accumulated juices back to the pot – you should have enough liquid to cover the shanks, if not add some water or vegetable stock
Bring this up to a boil, turn off the heat, put the cover on – make sure it fits tightly – and put the pot in the hot oven
Set your timer for 60 minutes – clean up, pour yourself another glass of cheer – figure out what your next blog posting is going to be (sorry that’s for me), research some food blogs and healthy eating sites – that’s for me too – you get the idea
After one hour, remove the pan, turn the meat over, you should still have enough liquid to cover the shanks, if not, add some more water or vegetable stock, put the lid back on and put the pot in the oven
Set the timer for another hour – stop drinking – it’s still early, but continue to read and research (okay just a touch more wine)
After another hour, check the meat – stir the liquids in the pot – it should be nicely thickened – make sure you don’t disturb the shanks – you want the meat on the bone not the bottom of your pot
It should need about another 30 minutes (I did it twice and both times it needed 2.5 hours in the oven)
After 2.5 hours – it should be perfectly done

Celeriac Puree
1 large Celeriac (they are mostly large – about 1.5 lbs) – peeled and cubed
1 large potato – peeled and cubed
1 cup full milk
4 cloves garlic
2 tblsp butter

Boil the celeriac and potato in salted water until tender, drain
Let sit for a few minutes to cool down (I mean the potatoes and celeriac – you haven’t done enough to need a cool down :))
In the mean time, put the milk on the stove and bring it up to a simmer, add the garlic and simmer for about 5 minutes to soften the garlic – turn the heat off and remove from the stove to cool slightly
Put the celeriac and potatoes through a ricer or use a potato masher
Add all the garlic and some of the milk (at least half) to the potato mixture and stir – add the butter – taste, season with salt and pepper, and taste
If it is too thick – add some more milk – the mash should be light and airy not thick and mushy – the texture of your mash depends on how you like it – leave some chunks for texture or make it silky smooth by processing in a processor – don’t over-process or it will become too stiff and starchy
Again taste, season and taste – it should be ready!

Place a heaping spoonful of the mash in the center of your plate
Place a lamb shank standing on top of the mash
Spoon some gravy down the center of the shank, it will cascade onto the mash – serve
As always – enjoy!

Braised Lamb Shanks and Celriac Puree