Braised Lamb Shanks with Lemon Confit

Dec 13, 2011 6:31 pm

Perk up a lamb shanks recipe with preserved lemon

braised lamb shanks
Photo: Donna Turner Ruhlman
The preserved lemon's tartness cuts the lamb's richness for a perfectly balanced flavor profile. Mmm, winter food.

Few other braised meats can achieve the richness and depth of braised lamb shanks. This recipe seasons the braising liquid with spices associated with Moroccan cooking. If you can't  find the ras-el-hanout, a North African spice blend, you can substitute curry.

Like most braised meats, the shanks are best cooked one to three days before serving. If you serve them on the same day, be sure to spoon off the rendered fat. I like to accompany the lamb and tomato-based sauce with curried couscous and sautéed red peppers, but basmati rice or boiled potatoes would work well, too.

Servings: 4


4 lamb shanks
kosher salt
all-purpose flour
canola oil, for sauteing
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
5 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of the knife
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ras-el-hanout, or curry powder
1 stick cinnamon
1 preserved lemon, scraped of pulp and pith, julienned or chopped
1 (28- ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed in a blender
1 tablespoon parsley, or cilantro minced
  1. Season the lamb shanks liberally with salt and set aside long enough for the salt to dissolve, at least 15 minutes.
  2. Put enough flour for dredging the shanks into a plastic bag. Add the shanks and coat with the flour.
  3. In a Dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof pot, add enough oil to reach 1/4-inch up the sides and heat over high heat. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, shake any residual flour off the lamb shanks and sear them until they have a nice crust. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  4. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  5. Wipe out the pot, add a thin film of oil, place over medium high heat and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion develops some color, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne, ras-el-hanout (if using), cinnamon, and half of the lemon, and stir to cook the spices and coat the onion, about 1 minute.
  6. Nestle the shanks in the pan, add the tomatoes with their liquid, and bring to a simmer.
  7. Cut out a round of parchment/baking paper that will fit your pot. Press this paper lid onto the shanks or cover the pot with a lid, placing it slightly ajar. Set the pot in the oven.
  8. Cook the shanks until they are fork tender, about 3 hours.
  9. Remove the pot from the oven and let the shanks cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
  10. Remove the congealed fat on the surface and discard. Reheat the shanks over medium-low heat or in a 300°F oven, just until heated through. While the lamb is reheating, soak the remaining preserved lemon in water for 5 to 10 minutes. 
  11. Serve the lamb with the sauce and garnish with the lemon and the parsley, if desired.
Level of Difficulty: 
Prep Time: 
20 minutes
Cooking Time: 
3 1/2 hours
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