Spice-Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils

In this dish, Chicago chef Bruce Sherman marinates and braises lamb shanks in a spice-based marinade. He leaves the spices whole in order to extract their flavor slowly during the long cooking process. The shanks are served atop a bed of small French green lentils (called lentilles vertes du Puy), which are simmered with aromatics, including an onion studded with cloves—a traditional French flavoring for legumes.

Spice-Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils
The lentils in this dish are simmered with clove—a traditional French flavoring for legumes.
Yield: serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white wine, preferably gewürztraminer
  • 1 14 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 13 cup coriander seeds
  • 3 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 10 cloves garlic (8 whole, 2 halved)
  • 4 sticks cinnamon, halved
  • 4 pods green cardamom
  • 6 carrots, peeled (4 thinly sliced, 2 cut into 1"-thick rounds)
  • 3 ribs celery (2 thinly sliced crosswise, 1 quartered)
  • 3 medium yellow onions (2 thinly sliced, 1 halved)
  • 1 (3") piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced, ends discarded
  • 4 (1-lb.) lamb shanks, trimmed and frenched
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 12 cups French green lentils (lentilles vertes du Puy)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 slices smoked bacon, quartered
  • 1 delicata or acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1⁄4" cubes
  • 2 bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1⁄4" cubes
  • 3 plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and cut into 1⁄4" cubes
  • 1 tbsp. thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. Combine wine, 1 cup of the olive oil, coriander, fennel, peppercorns, pepper flakes, whole garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, sliced carrots, sliced celery, sliced onions, ginger, and oranges in a bowl. Add lamb; toss to coat. Divide between 2 large sealable plastic bags and let marinate in the refrigerator for 36–48 hours.
  2. Heat oven to 300°. Remove lamb from marinade. Scrape off any marinade that clings to lamb; reserve marinade. Heat canola oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb all over with salt and pepper. Brown the lamb, turning occasionally, 12–14 minutes. Transfer lamb to a plate. Add reserved marinade; cook, scraping up browned bits, 2–3 minutes. Add lamb and stock; boil. Cover pot with foil; braise in oven until tender, about 2 1⁄2 hours. Remove from oven; let cool for 20 minutes. Transfer lamb to a bowl; set aside. Strain broth, discarding solids; skim off and discard fat. Reserve lamb and broth.
  3. Put lentils and 2 cups water into a pot. Bring to a boil; drain and rinse lentils and return to pot. Press cloves into onion halves; add to pot with remaining garlic, carrots, celery, and bacon. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until tender, 25–30 minutes. Discard all aromatics and return lentils to pot with squash and 2 1⁄2 cups lamb broth; cook over medium heat until squash is tender, 4–5 minutes. Add pears; cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, parsley, and chives; cook until tomatoes are softened, about 1 minute more. Season the lentil mixture with salt and pepper. (Reduce any remaining lamb broth slightly over medium heat.) Divide lentils between 4 large bowls and top with lamb shanks. Drizzle with reduced broth and remaining 1⁄4 cup of olive oil.