Lamb shanks are one of my favorite cuts of lamb, but transforming the tough meat to melt-in-your-mouth tenderness requires a little patience and cooking time. A classic way to cook lamb shanks is to braise them in a flavorful liquid like broth or tomato sauce. This lamb shanks with coffee and ancho chile recipe uses smoky coffee and slightly sweet and peppery ancho chiles instead. The flavor profile is somewhat atypical, but I think that might change in a hurry; I can’t think of a better way to prepare lamb shanks than with a slow braise in this powerfully flavored liquid.–Josh Weissman
LC Sum Is Exponentially Better Than Its Parts Note
Duck confit. The Beatles. The Kansas City Royals. And this lamb shanks with coffee and ancho chile recipe. What these things share is that the whole is exponentially greater than the parts. So much so that the individual flavors in this recipe are somewhat lost to the cause, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t discern the coffee and the ancho as individual notes. Not that we think you’ll be disappointed with this recipe. Not at all.
Lamb Shanks with Coffee and Ancho Chile Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 35 M
- 3 H, 45 M
- Serves 4
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons ghee, olive oil, or a mild oil such as avocado
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 5 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 1/4 tablespoons ancho chile powder
- 3/4 cup crushed tomatoes (yep, you can use canned)
- 1 cup strongly brewed coffee
- 2 cups homemade beef stock
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- 2. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the coriander seeds for 2 to 3 minutes or until fragrant, shaking the pan often to prevent burning. Place the toasted coriander seeds and the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind until you have a fine powder.
- 3. Pat the lamb shanks dry. They may have a thin white membrane known as silver skin around them; if so, remove that by carefully inserting the tip of a sharp knife under the skin, cautiously cutting an opening in it, and peeling it off. You may need to cut around it, as some are tougher than others; just be careful not to pierce the meat underneath. (You can instead smile sweetly and request that your butcher do this for you.)
- 4. Heat 2 1/2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a large ovensafe pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the lamb shanks on all sides with salt and pepper. Brown them in batches, turning to brown each side, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Place the browned shanks on a platter and tent with foil. Pour out any remaining cooking fat and pat the bottom of the pot with a paper towel.
- 5. Place the pot back on the burner and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon ghee or oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, and jalapeño and cook until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ground coriander and fennel seeds and ancho chile powder and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for about 30 seconds or until very fragrant. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, coffee, and beef stock, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, then add the red wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir.
- 6. Bring the braising liquid to a simmer and place the browned lamb shanks in the liquid, arranging them so that each shank is submerged. Pour any accumulated juices from the platter into the pot and cover. If the pot is filled less than halfway, you may want to place a sheet of parchment paper between the lid and the pot to create a tighter seal.) Place in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the meat pulls easily from the bone. (After about 20 minutes of braising, check the shanks. If they are simmering too hard, reduce the oven temperature by 20 to 30°F for the remainder of the braising time.)
- 7. Skim any fat from the surface of the braising liquid. Serve the lamb shanks in shallow dishes or rimmed plates with the braising liquid and vegetables spooned over and around.
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