Tender braised lamb shanks served over creamy Parmesan polenta is comfort food at its best and easy to make ahead for a dinner party.
So we had a week of nice cool weather, which was enough to flip the switch on my inner menu planner from summer grilling to fall braising. Please ignore the fact that the weather has returned to 80ish. This girl is ready for chili, soup and lamb shanks! (I actually made chili and soup this week too.) These lamb shanks are a few minutes of prep followed by a couple relaxing hours where you can pretty much forget they exist. The result: oh so tender lamb shanks. This, people, is football food. Throw them in the oven before the game starts and you can relax and watch the Jets (who as of this writing have an unbelievable 500 record).
I like to serve these over creamy polenta. It’s my favorite base for tender braised dishes like silky short ribs or dreamy pork ragu. It’s easy, it’s full of flavor thanks to chicken stock and Parmesan and it’s way faster than mashed potatoes. But if you like potatoes, go for it. You could also serve these over pureed squash. I think the sauce might taste good poured over anything. Mop up the extra with some crusty bread. Mmmmmm. Comfort in a bowl.
Dishes like this are also perfect for dinner parties. The lamb shanks can be made a day or two ahead and simply reheated the day of the party. So you can sip a glass of wine with your guests and not fuss over dinner. Good stuff! (And if you want a dessert that will dazzle your guests, try this chocolate dulce de leche tart. They may never leave!)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 thick slice of bacon
- 4 lamb shanks
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, skinned ad smashed
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 3 cups red wine
- 1 cup Ruby port
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups milk
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1½ cups coarse polenta (not quick cooking)
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
- ¼ cup mascarpone, optional
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Make the bouquet garni: Lay the herbs and bay leaves on top of the celery stalk and wrap the bacon around it, forming a bundle. Tie with kitchen twine. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, brown the lamb shanks on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Add the vegetables and garlic to the pan with a generous pinch of salt and cook until the vegetables are golden brown. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 more minute.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Add the red wine, port and bouquet garni to the pot. Bring to a boil and let it boil until the wine is reduced by one third, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
- Return the lamb shanks to the pot, cover, a transfer to the oven.
- Cook the lamb shanks for 2½ hours. Remove from the oven and set the lamb shanks on a plate. Strain the vegetables out of the cooking liquid and discard them. Discard bouquet garni. Return the liquid to the pot and reduce it until it is thickened, about 20 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot to warm through. At this point, you can refrigerate the lamb for a day or two.
- To make the polenta, bring chicken stock and milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Whisking constantly, gradually add polenta; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, whisking often, until polenta is tender and creamy, 20–25 minutes (if polenta becomes too thick too soon, loosen mixture by adding a little water and continue cooking). Add butter, Parmesan and mascarpone (if using) to polenta and whisk until melted; season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To serve, spoon polenta onto plates. Top with a lamb shank and spoon some of the sauce over.