This recipe for lamb shanks is from one of the Accidental Locavore’s favorite restaurants in New York, ilili. It’s contemporary Lebanese and totally delicious. My favorite dish is the lamb sausage, however this recipe for lamb shanks is pretty easy and a good substitute. I’ve adapted Philippe Massoud’s recipe, which serves 2. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you, you’ve got almost all of them, it’s an easy prep with a long, slow, unattended cooking time.
For the lamb shanks:
- 1 large lamb shank (about 1 pound)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup onions, diced (1 large)
- 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup celery, chopped
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups beef stock (lamb, veal or chicken will work fine, red wine and water would probably work too)
- 1 cup water
To finish the dish:
- 1 small eggplant, sliced 1/4″ thick, and salted for 2 hours
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (for frying the eggplant, you may need more)
- 1 1/2 cups full fat Greek yogurt (no substitutes, any reduced fat yogurt will curdle)
- 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
- 1 small pita bread, cut into diamonds and toasted or fried in olive oil (optional)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (you can use a little cayenne or hot paprika, if you can’t find aleppo, but it’s better)
- a few fresh mint leaves, cut into a chiffonade
Cooking the lamb shank:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the lamb shank with some of the olive oil. Mix the allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a small dish, and sprinkle over the lamb shank. Poke the lamb shank with a sharp knife in where the meat is thickest, and insert one clove of garlic in each slit. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to an oven-proof skillet large enough to hold the lamb shank, all the vegetables, the stock and water. Add the lamb shank and cook over high heat until the lamb is nicely browned on all sides. Remove the lamb from the pan, and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the onions, carrots and celery and sweat until the onions are translucent. Put the lamb shank back into the pan, add the cloves, thyme, bay leaves, stock and water. Cover the pan and cook for 3-3 1/2 hours until the shank is tender and falling off the bone. Check the lamb after about 2 hours to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan.
Remove the lamb from the oven. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove and shred the meat from the bone. Set aside.
Completing the dish:
In a large saute pan, fry the eggplant in olive oil over medium high heat until deep brown on both sides, set aside. In a small saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat, add the pine nuts and toast until they are golden brown. Be careful, pine nuts burn quickly. As soon as you see them start to darken, remove them from the heat and set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, add the yogurt and minced garlic and warm, stirring constantly.
For each serving, put 3-4 slices of eggplant in a shallow bowl. Divide the lamb and sprinkle it over the eggplant. In this order add: the pita chips, yogurt and the pine nuts with the butter. Finish with the mint and Aleppo pepper. Serve and enjoy.
I’ve made this a couple of times, and it’s delicious. Most recently I made it with some leftover leg of lamb that I had roasted. Instead of the braised shank, I shredded some of the leftover lamb, warmed it up while the eggplant was browning, and finished it with the yogurt, pine nuts etc. It was a great use for leftovers! If you decide to make it with the lamb shank, I would cook more than one; you can always freeze the leftover shank, and use it another time. When it (finally) becomes grilling season, this would work with grilled lamb leftovers and grilling the eggplant would be wonderful! What do you think?