Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Vermouth

You’ll swoon over these lamb shanks in buttery braised garlic sauce.

Braised Lamb Shank

For some reason, it’s really hard to find good beef here in Kuching. Last year when Nate was hankering for some steak for his birthday, I went to the store and got some ribeyes to grill up for him.

They were not good.

They were tough and did not have enough marbling. I had bought a big hunk of ribeye frozen and when we thawed them out, we had a feeling they weren’t going to be good. So, we’ve pretty much given up on getting good steaks here. The rest of that hunk ended up being sliced up and used for Niku-jaga which was a better application of that quality beef.

Anyway, why am I going on about beef when the title of this post says lamb shanks? Well, it’s because I want to let you know that even though we can’t get good beef here, we can certainly find good lamb!

The same place I got my beef, I also found some vacuum-packed lamb shanks that were super meaty. I got myself two shanks the first time; made this recipe and regretted not buying more. So the second time around, I made sure to get four shanks.

Irresistible

This recipe is really easy. The only hard part is waiting for it to get done. There are only a few ingredients and yet it makes this lovely lamb dish that even my kids cannot resist.

That first time when I only had two lamb shanks, our family of four fought over every last bit of the two shanks. This time with four shanks, we managed to have a little bit left over to take to lunch the next day. I can imagine that when my kids get older, forget about having any leftovers at all.

I got this braised lamb shank recipe from one of my Fine Cooking magazines. It mainly calls for garlic (loads of it) and some vermouth (I’ve also done it with red/white wine). The garlic is left in whole cloves with their skin on and when the long braise is done, the buttery melted garlic is pressed out and whisked back into the sauce. A little bit of lemon juice to brighten the flavors at the end and you will just swoon at how delicious this is.

Braised Lamb Shank with garlic

Braised Lamb Shank with Garlic and Vermouth Recipe

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

Prep Time: 00:10 / Cook time:03:00 / Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
4 lamb shanks (3/4 to 1 pound each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white vermouth (red or white wine will work too)
2 bay leaves
2 heads garlic, separated in to cloves (unpeeled)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, preferably a mix of mint and parsley

Method

  1. If using the oven, preheat the oven to 325 F and put your rack on the lower third of the oven.
  2. Trim your lamb shanks of excess fat but be careful not to trim off the membrane that holds the meat together (though if you do, it’s not the end of the world!). Sprinkle lamb shanks all over with salt and pepper.lamb shanks
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, which is large enough to hold all the lamb shanks in one layer. Brown two shanks on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove browned lamb shanks to a plate and brown the remaining shanks. Remove all browned shanks, turn off heat and pour off any fat (I find that using a paper towel and tongs to hold them is easier than grabbing a hot Dutch oven—just crumple paper towel and hold just on top of fat and soak as much as possible).
  4. Return pan to stove and heat to medium-high and add vermouth. Scrape up brown bits on the bottom of your pan as the vermouth boils. Lower heat and return the shanks to the pan, arranging them so they fit in one layer tightly.
  5. Add bay leaves and scatter the unpeeled garlic over the lamb shanks.
  6. If using the oven, cover the pot and place in preheated oven to braise. Turn the shanks every 45 minutes, until tender, about 1.5-2 hours. If using the stove, let shanks and sauce come to a boil, then turn the heat to the lowest setting. Cover and braise, turning the lamb shanks every 45 minutes, until tender, about 1.5-2 hours. If braising on the stovetop, you want to make sure that you don’t allow the sauce to dry out so if it looks in danger of doing so, add a little bit more vermouth, or chicken stock (but not too much).
  7. Transfer the lamb shanks to a platter and foil to keep warm. Skim off any fats left in the pot and pour the rest of the sauce into a bowl. Remove garlic cloves and bay leaves. Using a fine-mesh sieve, press garlic cloves with a spatula over sauce, making sure to scrape off the pulp on the bottom of the sieve into the sauce. Whisk in lemon juice. Season with more salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
  8. Serve lamb shanks with mashed potatoes or polenta with some steamed vegetables on the side. Pour the sauce onto the shanks and garnish with chopped herbs.

Braised Lamb Shank

I know that there are many other lamb shank recipes out there but this one is so simple and yet so delicious that I have yet to try any other. If you have not made this cut (or this recipe) before, you simply have to give it a try. The long, slow braise allows the garlic to infuse the lamb shank so well. Add that to the wonderful gentle buttery garlic flavor, I cannot praise this dish enough!

Cooking Notes

Two things of note that I should mention in cooking this lamb shank—first, the original recipe calls for it to be started on the stove and finished in the oven. When I was living in California, this was how I would make it but now that I’m here in Malaysia with a really small convection oven/microwave, cooking a braise in the oven isn’t as easy. I simply left my lamb on the stove over very low heat and it worked well.

Secondly, there isn’t very much vermouth that is called for in this recipe. There is a reason for this. Don’t be tempted to add much more (a little bit more won’t hurt but a lot more will dilute the flavors—I know this because I was greedy this last time and wanted to have more sauce to eat with my lamb only to find my dish compromised in flavor. In the end, we had to reduce the sauce to get that). The lamb will cook just fine with the amount of vermouth given. And all you have to do is turn the lamb midway through the cooking process to ensure even flavoring.

Enjoy!

Cheers, Annie

For its liberal use of garlic, I am entering this post in the Weekend Herb Blogging roundup, organized by Haalo and hosted this week by Briciole.

Other lamb shank recipes:
Lamb Braised in Milk with Fennel on Simply Recipes
Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils on Use Real Butter
Braised Lamb Shanks and Beans on Kalofagas.ca
Jinx-Proof Braised Lamb Shanks on FoodWishes
Braised Lamb Shanks with Star Anise and Lemongrass on Viet World Kitchen

15 Comments Post a Comment
  1. SharleneT. says:

    Oh, this is to die for and perfect for solar cooking! Yummy! I was just looking for a great lamb recipe to have at my next solar event. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This looks like a delicious recipe. I love lamb and I like to cook it on the stove to start and then finish in the oven myself in a cast iron pan. I am an X bartender and I agree with you about the vermouth, it will water down almost any recipe if too much is used! I like to use a veloute on my lamb, but this sauce looks really good! Just to let you know you are making my mouth water because I love polenta!

  3. J says:

    Doood… seriously drooling now, especially since it’s dinner time and my baked potatoes are still rock hard. I must try this before the weather heats up and I won’t want to turn the oven on. I just tried a throw-together recipe that I got from the butcher at the former Cosentino’s now Lunardi’s. Using lamb loin chops (the size of pork chops, not the 2-3 inch medallions), marinate in some olive oil, chopped fresh mint, chopped fresh basil, garlic, s&p, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Grill and eat. We devoured it, and just like you, I wished I had purchased more than 4 chops. Oh well, there’s always next time. And this is the year we hit the milestone of not having enough leftovers for another full meal, or even half a meal. Most of our leftovers go to Thing 1 because she hates standing in the school lunch line.

    • Nate says:

      Hey J

      We usually steam our potatoes in the microwave, or wrap them in foil to steam in the oven. Hope your dinner came out ok.

      We’ve been having a heat wave here in Malaysia and there’s just no way to cook without sweating!

      Those grilled lamb loin chops sound divine! Wish we had fresh mint and basil to make some here.

      What’s wrong with the school lunch line? It was good enough for me…

      • J says:

        It’s the actual line that she finds very intimidating. In elementary, it was one daily selection, we prepaid, and she simply went to one line to pick up her box. With the transition to jr. high this year, the system is cash only with multiple selections, multiple transaction windows, one giant mass of loud kids, and a mere 30 minute lunch break. She was literally deer in headlights the first time she encountered the line. She’s slowly gathering up courage, but for this season, she gets first dibs on all dinner leftovers… and I’m too lazy to make an additional meal just for her lunch. :)

  4. sophia says:

    I’ll take lamb over a ribeye steak anytime. They’re more biblical, anyway, hee hee.

    I don’t have vermouth but I do have vodka…uh, not the same thing, right?

    • Nate says:

      Sophia

      no, vodka is not vermouth. But you’re welcome to try it in the lamb dish. I’d be interested to know if there’s a difference in flavor!

  5. Now, THAT’S a hunk of meat. My husband, aka Meat Boy, would be proud of the lengths you go to over there to get good and copious amounts of meat. ;)

  6. Leonie says:

    Served with small baked potatoes and steamed green beans. Forgot how oily lamb is. After skimming off fat, I had 150ml of oil! Also didn’t have lemon so subbed with orange juice. Was not as garlicky as I liked, could have been the red wine overpowered it or I needed THREE heads of garlic cloves.

    Verdict: boys ate it and said it was ok. Didn’t care for a repeat. I might try it again with vermouth and lemon juice and just three lamb shanks. There is one huge lamb shank left. Each of the shanks were about 1.25lbs which was why I used 1 and 1/4 c red wine.

    Overall, I liked how easy the dish was to prepare and want to try it again. Any ideas about the “fattiness” of the meat?

    Aargh…and I forgot the herbs at the end. We were just so hungry :-P.

  7. Leonie says:

    Actually, looking at the wrapping of the lamb shanks, it says weight was 5.5lb…so each lamb shank was more than your suggestion….I should have thought about that!

    Thank you by the way for the recipe. It came out perfect – meat was tender to the bone. I think the sauce has to be made with more garlic and the vermouth….but I don’t know what it was meant to taste like. My attempt was not buttery or garlicky unfortunately.

  8. Simona says:

    My husband likes lamb and I must admit I never cook it. I am now tempted to surprise him. I really like the way you plated the dish: very elegant. Thank you for your contribution to WHB!

  9. Truman says:

    Too bad mutton can only be bought in Chengdu during the winter. Now if we lived in Inner Mongolia, that would be a different story. Do you think this recipe would taste good with pork?

  10. tigerfish says:

    Give me lamb shanks and I won’t miss the beef!

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My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

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