In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe one of our 40 best: Legendary chef Jeremiah Tower has been called the father of California cuisine, both as the chef at Chez Panisse in the 1970s then at his own magnificent San Francisco restaurant, Stars, where this lamb shank dish was first served. Rich, mellow, saucy, and supremely satisfying, it was a dish that caught diners’ eyes as it passed by their table, inspiring them to immediately order it for themselves. At Stars, Tower served the shanks with an aioli flavored with rosemary and mint, but we like to devour them as they are. Tower also advises using a heavy dutch oven just big enough to hold the shanks. The lamb can be braised a day ahead, making the meat extra tender and flavorful. The last-minute addition of fresh bell peppers injects a bright finish to the rich dish.
1 medium-size yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 300°F. Sprinkle lamb with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium until foamy. Add 2 foreshanks, all of the unpeeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer browned foreshanks, unpeeled garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to a platter, and set aside. Add remaining 2 foreshanks to Dutch oven, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 15 minutes. Return browned foreshanks, unpeeled garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to Dutch oven. Cover and transfer to preheated oven. Cook, flipping shanks every 20 minutes, until very tender, about 2 hours.
Remove lamb shanks, and set aside. Pour chicken stock into Dutch oven, and bring to a boil over high, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of Dutch oven. Remove from heat; use a ladle to skim off fat from surface, and discard. Return stock to a boil over high, skimming surface often and discarding fat, until reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Pour stock mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup; discard solids. Skim remaining fat from surface, and discard. Wipe Dutch oven clean; pour strained stock into Dutch oven.
Add peeled garlic cloves to strained stock, and simmer over medium-low until garlic is slightly tender, about 20 minutes, flipping garlic cloves after 10 minutes. Return lamb to Dutch oven. (The lamb can be cooked up to a day ahead. Refrigerate, covered; reheat before proceeding.)
Scatter bell peppers and thyme leaves around lamb, and cook over medium-low, moving peppers around lamb occasionally, until peppers and garlic are tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb shanks to warm serving plates. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to sauce, and stir until creamy. Remove from heat. Spoon sauce with bell peppers and garlic cloves around lamb shanks.
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