- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 meaty lamb shanks (about 1 1/4 pounds each)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon harissa or other chile paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, minced
- One 10-ounce box instant couscous
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Add them to the casserole, 2 at a time, and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the casserole.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the casserole. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and cook, stirring until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and harissa and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced to a thick syrup, about 4 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of the chicken stock to the casserole. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Nestle the lamb shanks in the liquid. Cover tightly and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, basting occasionally, until the meat is almost falling off the bone. Transfer the shanks to a platter and cover with foil. Leave the oven on.
- Spread the almonds in a pie pan in an even layer and toast for about 10 minutes, or until golden.
- Strain the sauce into a bowl, pressing on the vegetables; skim any fat. Return the sauce to the casserole and boil over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Return the vegetables and lamb to the sauce and keep warm.
- In a small bowl, mix the mint with the cilantro and almonds and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the shallot and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the couscous and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock, the water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the currants. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in half of the herb-almond mixture.
- Mound the couscous in the center of a large platter. Arrange the lamb shanks around the couscous and spoon the sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining herb-almond mixture and serve.
The warmly flavored spices, the luscious braised lamb and the sweet toasted almonds are all a great match for the hit of fruit in a Zinfandel from Napa Valley.
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Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.