When I was growing up, my mom used to always say, “Every woman should have a go-to dinner recipe for special occasions”. For her, a “special” dinner was the kind of meal that you would cook for your in-laws, your husband’s boss, or simply when you needed to impress someone. This braised lamb shank was one of those recipes that fit the bill perfectly – which is why she made it for dinner for mine and Dwight’s first night in Turkey when we travelled home for our wedding.
For Dwight, it was not only his first time in Turkey, but also in my family’s house. And for my mom, this was his first “official” mother-in-law dinner. It was an important milestone that only happens once in a lifetime. She had absolutely no idea that Dwight was (and still is) one of those people who loves eating pretty much anything and everything – he’s not tough to impress. As you can imagine, it was music to my mom’s ears when he asked for more after he finished his first portion. Later, he even told me that this was the best thing he had ever eaten.
The thing about this recipe is that while it is very easy make, it just requires time. I recommend making it on a day that you are planning to be home for the rest of the day. To make it, all you have to do is to season the meat with a salt-pepper-sugar rub, place it in a Dutch oven (or any heavy bottom pot with a lid), and cook it on low heat until the meat is falling of the bone, usually close to 3 hours.
After the first 2 hours, you will see that with the help of the low heat and the salt-pepper-sugar rub, it begins to develop some amazing flavors, making your kitchen smell like one of those authentic Brazilian churrascarias.
To finish it up, I glazed it with a lemon and mustard sauce and topped it off with an Italian classic, Gremolata – also known as chopped parsley, lemon zest, and minced garlic. I served it with Parmesan polenta, but it would go well with any starch of your choice.
Braised Lamb Shanks with Mustard and Gremolata
For the meat:
- 4 lamb shanks trimmed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper preferably freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the Gremolata Sauce:
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- zest of 1 lemon
- Mix salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl.
- Rinse lamb shanks under running water. Dry them thoroughly with paper towels.
- Massage the lamb shanks with the salt-pepper-sugar mixture, making sure to coat all sides.
- Place lamb shanks in a Dutch oven (or a heavy bottom pan with a lid) on a single layer.
- Cover and cook in low heat*, turning shanks once or twice, until meat is fork-tender and almost falling of the bone. This takes around 2 1/2 to 3 hours. As they cook they will release their juices.
- Place the mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add in 2-3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the pan and whisk until combined.
- Spoon it over the lamb shanks. Turn the heat off and let it marinate for 10 minutes.
- To make the Gremolata: Place parsley, garlic, and lemon zest in a small bowl.
- When ready to serve, garnish each lamb shank with a tablespoon of gremolata.