Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

This red wine braised lamb shank recipe served over polenta is absolutely swoonable — one of my favorite winter recipes. You’ve been good, treat yourself.


Confess. How many of you peek into the bargain meat section at your supermarket? No one? I admit, it’s sometimes scary, but I take a look when I’m in the treasure-hunting mood. My Lowes Foods has a section in one of their floor coolers for deeply discounted meat. Every now and then I find something good for the freezer, like lamb shanks, oh happy day.

Until now I had never cooked lamb shanks. I knew they would require a good long braise and the reward would be magnificent. I did a quick search online, once again forsaking my bookcase of cookbooks. Why oh why do I keep forgetting about them?

I’m sure Julia would have something to say about lamb shanks. But no, I ended up on the Food & Wine site and fell for this recipe, Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks. Even their suggested accompaniments wound up on my menu – Maple Glazed Root Vegetables, Braised Red Cabbage and Creamy Polenta. The lamb shanks rivaled the best boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin I’ve made. Such flavor!

Save this for the weekend because the meal takes some time to put together. Food & Wine said the lamb shanks would take two hours and 40 minutes, including 40 minutes of active time. Since the root vegetables cook at a higher temperature than the lamb shanks, I roasted them first, up until the point when they’re tossed with the glaze. I finished them later, when everything else was ready, by reheating them a bit and tossing them with the glaze.

When the lamb goes in the oven, put a pot of water on to boil for your polenta and start the cabbage. Or, simply use this wicked easy microwave polenta recipe I found. Once your cabbage is done, start your polenta, about 50 minutes before the lamb is due to be done. I know, that’s a lot of time calculations, but once you work it out on paper, you can simply follow along.

This meal is a perfect project for a late Saturday or Sunday afternoon, preferably a cold one. It takes a long time but you’ll have downtime to do other things, like hang out on Twitter or read about the state of art criticism. Put on your apron, pour yourself a glass of red wine, find a good podcast and get ready to fill the house with incredible aromas. Bon appétit!

Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks

Serves two people, one shank per person. You’ll need a large deep oven-safe pan (or Dutch oven) with an oven-safe lid, medium saucepan and fine sieve.

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Two 1-pound lamb shanks
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 thick
  • 2 medium celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • ½  750-ml bottle dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1-2 rosemary sprigs

Preheat oven to 325°. Heat olive oil. Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper and brown them on all sides over medium-high heat. Remove shanks for a moment while you add and cook garlic, carrots, celery and onion until they begin to soften.

Return shanks to the pan, add red wine and boil for 3 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer. Add bay leaves, peppercorns and rosemary. Cover pan tightly and transfer to oven. Braise the lamb shanks, turning once halfway through, for about 1-1/2 hours, or until very tender, as in “could fall off the bone” tender.

Remove the shanks to a plate. Using a fine sieve, strain the braising liquid from the pan into a medium saucepan, pressing on the solids so you get all that scrumptious liquid. Boil this liquid over high heat until it has reduced to about 3/4 cup. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Put the lamb back in the pan (or oven-proof serving dish) and pour about 1/4 cup of the liquid over the lamb shanks; keep the remaining (your sauce) warm. Cover the lamb shanks (with foil if in a dish) and reheat in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve the lamb shanks with the remaining sauce.

Make ahead: The braised lamb shanks can be refrigerated in their sauce overnight. Cover and reheat in a 350° oven for 30 minutes, or until warm.

Original recipe: Red Wine-Braised Lamb Shanks, Food & Wine

Maple-Glazed Root Vegetables

You could also use sweet potatoes, regular potatoes and/or parsnips. You’ll need a large sheet pan, small pan, whisk and serving bowl.

  • 1-1/4 pounds rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 3/4 pounds turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme, or a few thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the rutabagas, turnips and carrots on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle oil over vegetables and toss well. Spread the vegetables out in an even layer and season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly browned and tender, about 40 minutes. Drizzle vinegar over vegetables and toss well. Roast until sizzling, about 3 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, bring chicken broth and maple syrup to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 10-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.

Transfer root vegetables to a warm bowl. Add the maple glaze and toss well. Serve right away.

Make ahead: The roasted root vegetables and maple glaze can be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day. Reheat vegetables in a 350° oven for 10 minutes. Bring glaze to a simmer before tossing with the root vegetables.

Original recipe: Maple-Glazed Root Vegetables, Food & Wine

I posted the Braised Red Cabbage recipe earlier along with one for Beer Brats.

Creamy Polenta

You can make polenta the traditional way I describe below or use the easy microwave recipe for polenta I found after publishing this post.

No, you don’t have to stand over this pot and continually stir. But you will have to set your timer for every ten minutes and then stir for one minute. You’ll need a 4-quart heavy pot, whisk and sturdy wooden spoon.

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups polenta (not quick-cooking) or yellow cornmeal (10 ounces)

Bring water to a boil with salt in a 4-quart heavy pot, then add polenta in a thin stream, whisking. Cook over moderate heat, whisking, 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer polenta, covered, stirring for 1 minute after every 10 minutes of cooking, 45 minutes total. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Make ahead: As polenta sits, it firms up. You can make this ahead but you’ll end up with a firm bouncy texture instead of creamy. You can slice, grill and top it with butter or lamb sauce.

Original recipe: Creamy Polenta, Epicurious (from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)


Looking for another swoon-worthy Sunday meal? Try this Pork Roast with Prunes, Rosemary and Wine or Coq au Vin.


(This post includes an Amazon affiliate link. I receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase the product.)

4 thoughts on “Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks with Roasted Root Vegetables & Creamy Polenta

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