Lamb shanks are ideal for the long, slow, moist cooking of braising, which gives them a unique rich tenderness.
Serves 4 (with 1–4 doggie bones)
Total time: 3½ hours
For the shanks
4 lamb shanks, from 1 to 1½ pounds each
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons black pepper
4 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
4 tablespoons oregano
4 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
4 teaspoons ground coriander
4 teaspoons thyme
8 sprigs rosemary
For the sauce
2 large sweet or yellow onions, chopped medium to fine
4 tablespoons minced garlic
4 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste (or 4-ounce can)
2 apples, cored and cut into eighths
2 pears, cored and cut into eighths
1 lemon, quartered
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
8 bay leaves, break in half
1½ cups beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
½ cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
Browning and braising
Heat olive oil in large (or 2 medium-size) Dutch oven(s), uncovered on stove top, to medium heat while trimming visible fat and tendons from lamb shanks. Rinse, pat dry and evenly sprinkle salt, black and Aleppo pepper, oregano, paprika, coriander and thyme on all sides of the shanks. Place pieces into oil and turn every 2-3 minutes browning on each side. Remove meat and set aside. Preheat oven to 300°F and set rack to a lower-middle position.
Combine onions and garlic with the drippings in the Dutch oven, and stir for 3–4 minutes before reducing heat to low. Mix in tomato paste, fruit, salt, pepper and bay leaves; cook for 5 minutes.
Add beef broth, tomatoes, honey, cinnamon sticks; mix gently, heat for 5 minutes, and nestle lamb shanks into mixture. Place rosemary sprigs on shanks and transfer uncovered Dutch oven(s) into preheated oven. Braise for a total of 2½ hours, basting every 30 minutes and covering the final 45 minutes.
Gently place tender lamb shanks on platter to rest for 15 minutes while topping with a few spoons of sauce. Transfer rest of sauce to bowl for serving separately. Discard lemon wedges, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.
Suggestions and pairings
This meal pairs well with oven-roasted potatoes and fresh Greek salad, as well as orzo, flavored with lemon and oil and sautéed green beans.
A Pinot Noir, Roots Crosshairs Cuvée, produced in Oregon, is a dry, smooth wine, with notes of red fruit works very well with this dish ($25).
An Italian Chianti, Colli Senesi, with a spicy blend of earthy tones and hints of berries also goes perfectly with this red meat dish ($12).
Omikron, Roditis-Moshcofilero, a Greek Peloponnese wine, from two indigenous grapes with crisp acidity and aromas that hint of apple and citrus fruits, is another good selection ($10).