Braised Lamb Shanks- One More Time

braised lamb shanks

Winter finally came to Los Angeles, so I made Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Roasted Grapes (from a recipe I adapted by Stephanie Izard). Braising lamb shanks can take a good long time when done properly, and it’s an enjoyable process. Perfect for a rainy afternoon because it fills the house with those warm and comforting “come and get it” aromas. Fortunately the rain only lasted three days– just long enough for me to make these braised lamb shanks and enjoy the leftovers too.

I know we’ve talked about braising before. But while there’s still a bit of winter lingering in most of North America I figure we should address this cooking technique one more time. It’s a simple process with just a few foolproof steps. The end result is rich and flavorful.

The concept behind braising is this: the main ingredient is seared or browned in fat. It’s then simmered in liquid on low-heat in a covered pot for a very long time. You can choose to braise in the oven or on the top of the stove. Braising is a versatile method of cooking. Even specific recipes, like today’s Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Roasted Grapes, are easily adaptable once you have the technique mastered. With braising there’s always some wiggle room to make the dish your own.

Braising is usually my first choice when preparing less expensive, tougher cuts of meat. Now don’t tune out. “Less expensive and tough” are not ways to describe the final product of your braising magic. Braising makes leathery meat– tender. Really, it does. Cooking the meat slow, moist and covered over low heat for a long time breaks down the connective tissue in meat. Through time the moisture and heat build and the collagen (which is what makes the meat “tough”) dissolves into gelatin. The gelatin moves into the sauce and works as a slight thickening agent to make the sauce smooth and velvety.

Wine Pairing

2011 Brigatti Uva Rara Colline Novaresi 

2011 Brigatti Uva Rara Colline Novaresi
Succulent, slowly braised lamb shank, spicy coriander, sweet and savory grapes…and a conundrum. What wine to serve? Should it be a strong fruit-forward fellow to go head to head with the richness of the dish? Perhaps a hearty Cab from California? Or is it better to “do the opposite” as George Costanza might suggest and select a subtle savory […]
Ken Eskenazi

Price $20-$25

Pairs well with veal chop, prosciutto di Parma, pork with fruit sauce, lamb shank, beef and black bean stir-fry

The key to success is giving it enough time. Because as the meat cooks its fibers begin to expel moisture, thereby causing it to become dry and less flavorful. If you were to pull the meat out of the pan at this point you would be disappointed with the results. But if you give the meat more cooking time these fibers relax and absorb the melted fat as well as the flavorful broth. This process is called osmosis. The long and short of it is that everything re-hydrates and becomes very tender with whatever amazing flavors you put in the braising liquid.

You could stop there. Braised Lamb Shanks are delicious served all on their own with some of that velvety sauce I mentioned and a nice glass of wine. Ken chose an unusual Italian grape with 2011 Brigatti Uva Rara Colline Novaresi, but one of the more subtle styles of California Cabernet Sauvignons would be nice too. These shanks can also be served casually sitting on top a pile of the cooked grain of your choice. They’re also perfect with any potato you choose to whip up.

However, when layered with an interesting collection of flavors and textures, as in these Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Roasted Grapes, braises are elegant make-ahead dinner party fare. Besides, both the roasted grapes and the curried cauliflower are versatile enough to be worked into many other of your favorite dishes. Win/Win. GREG

Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Roasted GrapesBraised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Roasted Grapes

Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Roasted Grapes 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Stephanie IzardPublished

*Straining the sauce before serving is optional and makes for a more elegant presentation.



  • 1 pound seedles red grapes, stemmed
  • 2 tablespoon julienne of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoon julienne of fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 5 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (separated)
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper (as needed)
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1 large onion (cut into ¼‑inch dice)
  • 4 clove garlic (divided, peeled and minced)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon cooking sherry
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cup low-sodium chciken stock
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots (peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoon curry powder


Roast the grapes: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the grapes , spread out as much as possible, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until the grapes are just beginning to shrivel and split, about 35 minutes. Let them cool slightly on the baking sheet.

Place the cooled grapes into a medium bowl, toss with the basil, mint, both zests, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to serve. The grapes can be made up to 1 day ahead. In which case refrigerate and then allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Make the lamb: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven with a lid over medium-high heat. Season the lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. When the oil is very hot, add the shanks and brown on all sides, using tongs to turn often. Remove the shanks to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 3 cloves minced garlic and cook an additional minute. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add sherry, vinegar, and Worcestershire; simmer to reduce by half. Add tomato paste, stirring until it melts into the liquid. 

Return the shanks and any accumulated juices to the pan, add the stock followed by anise, coriander and mustard seeds; cover the pan. Turn heat to very low and braise lamb until very tender, 2 to 2 ½ hours. The shanks can be made up to 1 day ahead. In which case allow them to cool completely, cover and refrigerate. Bring them to room temperature before continuing.

Meanwhile make the cauliflower: Remove any greenery, cut the head of cauliflower in half and cut out most of the stem. Break into large florets and then slice into ¼‑inch thick pieces.

Heat the butter and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan (at least 12-inches) over medium heat. Add the shallots and the remaining clove of minced garlic. Cook stirring often until the shallots are translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower in as close to a single layer as possible. Cook undisturbed until the cauliflower releases much of its liquid and begins to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to sauté, tossing occasionally until the florets are just tender, an additional 8 to 10 minutes. 

Add the curry powder, tossing to coat the florets; season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside in a warm place.

Plate the dish: Re-heat the shanks in the braising liquid if necessary, then remove them from liquid. *Strain braising liquid into a small saucepan and simmer to reduce until velvety in texture. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide the cauliflower among 4 heated rimmed plates or shallow bowls. Top each with a warm lamb shank, spoon the pan sauce over the top, and garnish with a generous sprinkling of the roasted grape mixture. Serve warm.