- 6 lamb shanks (1 pound each)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 extra-large white onion, chopped
- 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 12 thyme sprigs
- 1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 3 large shallots, finely chopped
- Two 28-ounce cans Italian pureed tomatoes
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cups sour trahana pasta (see Note) or couscous
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons minced dill
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons snipped chives
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 pound ricotta salata, shredded
- Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the shanks and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the lamb shanks to a medium roasting pan.
- Preheat the oven to 325°. Melt the butter in the skillet. Add the onion, garlic and 8 of the thyme sprigs and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 7 minutes. Scrape the onions into the roasting pan and add the stock. Cover the pan with foil and braise the shanks in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is very tender.
- Transfer the lamb to a large ovenproof platter. Strain the braising liquid into a bowl through a fine sieve and skim off the fat. You should have 7 1/2 cups; if necessary, add more water. Cover the lamb shanks with foil and keep warm in the oven.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the shallots and the remaining 4 thyme sprigs and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cinnamon stick and cook over moderate heat until the sauce is very thick and reduced to 3 cups, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard the cinnamon stick and thyme sprigs.
- In a large saucepan, bring the braising liquid to a boil. Add the trahana and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed; stir occasionally. Transfer the trahana to a bowl and stir in the tomato sauce, dill, parsley, chives and lemon juice. Fold in half of the cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mound the trahana on a large platter. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Arrange the lamb shanks on top of the trahana and serve.
The lamb shanks can be refrigerated in their braising liquid for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, then reheat in a 325° oven.
Trahana, a Greek pasta made from bulgur wheat, has a grainy appearance similar to couscous. There are two types, sweet and sour. The sour variety is mixed with thick goat's-milk yogurt before it is dried, giving it a distinctive tangy flavor. Trahana is available at Greek and Middle Eastern markets.
The lamb and ricotta salata suggest a spicy, dark, fruity, earthy Agiorgitiko from Greece to cut the richness.