Braised lamb shanks are excellent comfort foods. After slowly cooking for hours in an aromatic liquid, the meat falls from the bone in luscious strips. Sumac, a tart and lemony spice ground from the fruit of the sumac shrub, is a great foil to the rich lamb meat. You can find it in larger grocery stores with a good selection of Middle Eastern ingredients. Serve this dish with cous-cous, rice, or roasted root vegetables.
4 lamb shanks, approximately ¾lb to 1lb each
to taste salt and pepper
3 tbsp sumac, divided
2 large eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
1 red pepper
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 sweet onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 herb bundle (2 bay leaves, 4 thyme branches, 6 parsley branches)
1 lemon skin, peeled into strips
1 orange skin, peeled into strips
1 small (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Lightly salt the meat side of the halved eggplants, and allow to sit for 1 hour at room temperature. This step will help draw out any bitterness in the eggplant.
3. Season the lamb shanks with salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp of the sumac. Rub them with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Set the shanks on a rack in a roasting pan and place in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, or until browned all over. Remove the browned shanks and set aside. (This step allows you to brown the meat without having to tend to them in your braising pot).
4. Rub the pepper with 1 tbsp olive oil, and wrap in tin foil. Pat the eggplant dry and rub with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Wrap the eggplant in tin foil as well. Place the pepper and eggplant in the oven (with the shanks), and roast, turning the vegetable packets once, for 30 minutes or until fully cooked (the vegatables should be roasted and softened). Remove the vegetables from the oven and cool. Turn the oven down to 325°F.
5. In a large covered Dutch oven (or heavy bottomed pot) over a medium heat, sweat the onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil. When slightly translucent (about 5 minutes), add the garlic, stir, and cover. Sweat for an additional 3 minutes before adding the carrot, celery, herb bundle, and lemon and orange peels. Stir well, cover, and cook for ten minutes, or until the carrots are soft.
6. Meanwhile, peel the roasted pepper and the eggplant; discard the seeds and skin. Chop roughly, and add to the pot. Add the canned tomatoes (with juice) and the chicken stock. Nestle the lamb shanks into the liquid, ensuring they are at least 80% submerged, and bring to a simmer. Place in the oven and braise for 2 hours, or until the meat is falling from the bone.
7. Arrange the lamb shanks on a deep platter, and spoon the vegetables and cooking juices around them. Scatter the mint and parsley leaves all over, then sprinkle the lamb with 1 tbsp of the sumac. Serve immediately.