Lamb shanks—which the French call "souris"—are the shin portion of the legs. The foreshanks are the meatiest and the easiest to find. The shank contains a good deal of connective tissue that produces a smooth, luxurious sauce when cooked in the very slow, moist heat of a braise. Do not trim the fat from the lamb shanks. The fat forms a sort of girdle, holding the lamb shanks together, and also adds flavor, color and body to the final sauce.
Banuyls, a sweet fortified wine from the Pyrénées in France's southwest, is a powerful wine usually made from at least 75 percent Grenache grapes and aged for two years. It is a distant relation of port. The best ones bear the name Rancio and come from the Domaine la Rectoire and du Mas Blanc. In Provence, one also finds some excellent vin doux naturel that are great for cooking. Wells's favorites include the 16-degree alcohol red vin doux naturel from the cave cooperative in Rasteau or the pure- Grenache Rasteau Rancio from Domaine Bressy Masson.
More Amazing Lamb Recipes
4 teaspoons quatre épices
4 meaty 1-pound lamb shanks (do not trim the external fat)
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 cup Banyuls wine, vin doux naturel from Provence or Port
1 quart homemade chicken stock
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Rub the quatre épices all over the lamb shanks and season them generously with salt and white pepper.
Stand the lamb shanks in a heavy roasting pan. Roast in the center of the oven, uncovered, for 1 hour. Remove from the oven. Add the wine and the stock and cover. Return the lamb shanks to the oven and braise—without intervening—until the meat is very tender and just beginning to fall off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the lamb shanks to a warmed platter. Season generously with salt and white pepper. Cover the lamb shanks with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve and serve.
This simple, meaty dish calls out for one of your best reds.Try a Cairanne or a Gigondas . Alternatively, try one of the wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon, such as a Corbières or Minervois.
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