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Southwestern Braised Lamb Shanks


Serves 4

Cranberries and chipotle chiles in adobo sauce impart a tangy-sweet and smoky flavor to these succulent braised lamb shanks. Like most braised meats, the shanks improve with reheating.

  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 lamb shanks, 14 to 16 oz. each, blotted dry
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup full-bodied red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
  • 8 oz. (2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup lower-salt beef broth
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 Tbs. minced canned chipotles in adobo
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 Tbs. for garnish
The secret to braising—low and slow cooking in a little liquid—is to maintain a gentle, even simmer. A cast-iron skillet keeps the temperature steady even when the heat is low, and its size works well for smaller cuts of meat, such as short ribs and the lamb shanks here.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, swirling the pan to coat the bottom; then add the lamb shanks and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the shanks to a plate. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Cook the onion in the skillet over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, and bring the mixture to a boil.

Stir in the cranberries, broth, honey, chipotles, and cumin and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 minutes. Arrange the shanks in the skillet, cover tightly with an ovenproof domed lid or heavy-duty aluminum foil, and put the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet (to make it easier to transfer without spilling). Transfer to the oven and cook, turning the lamb shanks 2 or 3 times during cooking, until they are fork tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

Transfer the shanks to a medium bowl and cover to keep warm. Skim any fat from the sauce in the skillet and boil over high heat until the liquid lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Stir in the 1/4 cup cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the shanks to the skillet, briefly turning them in the sauce, and serve sprinkled with the remaining 1 Tbs. cilantro.

Make Ahead Tips

You can braise the shanks (but don't add the cilantro) up to 3 days ahead. Transfer to a container to cool—storing them in the skillet can give them a metallic flavor and can degrade the pan’s seasoning. Cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, slowly reheat, covered, in the cast-iron skillet in the oven. Then add the cilantro, season, and garnish as directed above.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 590, Fat (kcal): 18, Fat Calories (g): 160, Saturated Fat (g): 5, Protein (g): 61, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9, Carbohydrates (mg): 38, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 2, Sodium (g): 580, Cholesterol (g): 180, Fiber (g): 4,

Photo: Scott Phillips

My vocabulary is too limited for me to articulate just how good these shanks are. The recipe is easy and the payoff is huge. BTW, in the final step, I had more liquid than I thought I should. It took a bit longer to reduce to the correct consistency, but it was worth the extra time to thicken the sauce. The hotness from the chipotles is moderated if you wait a day to serve. Enjoy!

Scrumptious. It was the perfect balance between heat and sweet. The aroma while it was cooking drove my husband crazy and he hoped it was not going to be one of those "smells better than it tastes" recipes. It did not disappoint and I will definitely make this again. I had never cooked lamb shanks before and was afraid they might be too fatty but I didn't have to skim off any fat. While the recipe called for four shanks my grocer sold them in packages of three. I cooked all six, in two pans, and was glad I did because we were very happy to have leftovers.

A 10 all the way around!! Easy to assemble! Ready to dish up tasty sauce that was yummy as left overs! I will make again!, Ardith

Wow! This was so good! I had bought 2 lamb shanks, and really wished there were 4 for more leftovers! So tasty, and easy. Great balance of flavors. Will be making for friends.

What a wonderful and tasty way to cook lamb we truly enjoyed it!! i cooked it the day before and it was even better, i served with mashed potatoes and garlic broccoli, thanks!

We really enjoyed this dish, like the flavors of the three "C" cranberries, chipotles and cumin.

Found this recipe last winter and made it for our Christmas dinner. It is absolutely delicious and could not be easier to make. I've made it for three different get-togethers this year and we are having it for Thanksgiving. My family and friends love it!

This recipe is outstanding. I have made it 3 times: twice with lamb shanks and most recently, with beef short ribs for a large dinner party. The first time I made it, I tasted the sauce it prior to putting it in the oven, and I was concerned that it was too spicy. The chipotles mellowed during the braising and the seasoning was perfect. I agree that you don't have to be too precise with the amounts to have it come out perfectly. I served it with a multi-variety rice and Brussels Sprouts which were roasted with red onions, olive oil, S&P. Given how flavorful the sauce is, you don't want to try to compete with it by having the accompaniments be spiced.

I agree I don't understand Lotus Man's review either. I've made this recipe twice now and it is one of my favourite ways to prepare shanks. I do tweak the recipe a bit and not use all the sauce but overall its amazing. The leftovers are fantastic.

Don't understand Lotus Man's review (doesn't sound like he made or tried this recipe, just objects to cranberries on principal . . . ) This was absolutely amazing. One of my favorite things I've ever made. I may have added a bit more cranberry/honey to balance the chipotle, but this recipe did not require precision of measurement. Just make sure you get a good brown on the skin. I made it with cheesy grits and garlicky kale - - and we had the most amazing leftovers. Yum!

How are cranberries "southwestern"??? There could be a fruit less southwestern (grown in the Northern states and Canada produced with a lot of water). Perhaps they might choose a fruit that is more southwestern than the cranberry for this recipe.

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