Braised Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Herb Salad

In this recipe, the lamb is braised in Moroccan spices until it is "fall off the bone tender" and is paired with a flavorful herb salad for an impressive entrée fit for a dinner party. I love playing around with different spices from different parts of the world. The spices in this braise are a version of the common Moroccan spice combination, ras al hanout -- a warm combination of cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cayenne.

Lamb shanks are the muscular bottom portion of the lamb leg and due to that muscle they can be tough. Braising the meat in the oven allows for the connective tissue to break and for the meat to become tender and flavorful. While they take a little longer to cook they are worth it, as they also are a cheaper cut of meat so they are great when you are cooking for a larger group of people.



Braised lamb shank:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt, as needed

Freshly ground black pepper, as needed  

4 bone-in lamb shanks (about 4 pounds)

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1½ teaspoon ground ginger

1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 cup chicken broth

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes


Herb salad with quick pickled onions:

1 cup red wine vinegar

½ cup granulated sugar

½ medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 (packed) cup parsley leaves

1 (packed) cup cilantro leaves

½ (packed) cup mint

1 teaspoon lemon zest

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt



Braised lamb shank:

Preheat oven to 325º. Heat a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or saucepot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Season the shanks with salt and pepper then working 2 at a time, brown the shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes each. Set aside and repeat with the remaining shanks.

Lower the heat to medium then add the onion and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. In a small bowl stir together the cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and cayenne until completely combined. Add to the pot and let the spices cook until fragrant, about an additional minute. Add the chicken broth to deglaze the pan followed by the tomatoes and lamb shanks then bring the mixture to a boil. Cover tightly with the lid then place in the oven and braise until the meat is falling off the bone, about 3 hours. Rotate the lamb about every hour.

Remove the lid and raise the heat to 350º, and continue to bake until the lamb browns lightly and the liquid reduces, about an additional 30 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the oven and let cool.


Herb salad with quick pickled onions:

In a small saucepot over medium heat, whisk the vinegar and sugar together until combined and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the onion to a small bowl and pour the mixture over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes then drain the pickling mixture and add the onions to a medium-mixing bowl. Add the parsley, cilantro, mint and lemon zest. Toss with the olive oil and season with salt.


To serve:

Serve the lamb shanks in bowls topped with the herb salad over the top. Add the remaining sauce to a bowl and serve on the side.


Serves 4.



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