I love it when an experimental recipe turns out well. That's what happened last night. I went out on a limb and purchased lamb shanks, a cut of meat that I've never cooked before. I am also using ancho chilies for the very first time.
The whole idea came about because I had a bottle of Paringa Sparkling Shiraz that I wanted to open and try - another thoughtful gift from my sister. See Poor Girl Gourmet for a detailed post on this wine. I figured beef or lamb would go well with it and I just cooked beef the other day so lamb it was. The ancho chilies have a fruity almost raisin or prune scent to it, so I hoped it would be a nice match for the Shiraz.
The lamb turned out moist and tender and just fell off the bone after two hours of braising. The sauce that resulted was so delicious over mashed potato. It tasted like a rich and silky gravy. The Paringa was a hit too. Shiraz is one of K's favorite wines. I find it a bit too strong for me unless I'm having it with a nice grilled steak. K was a bit hesitant, he kept teasing that it was a wine cooler before he tried it. I'm no wine connoisseur, so all I can say is "I like it". The bubbly fizz made it light and pleasant to drink.
Just a few notes for next time...I may use 3 or 4 ancho chilies so the ancho chili flavor will have more of a presence and I may add a pinch or two more red pepper flakes. Either that or leave the seeds in one or two of the ancho chilies. Other than that this recipe was a success and definitely a keeper. I may try it with beef short ribs next time.
I just had leftovers and it tastes even richer and even better the next day.
2 lamb shanks (~2.5 lbs.)
Olive or canola oil
2 ancho chilies
1 onion chopped
4 large cloves garlic chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
32 ounce vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine
1 generous pinch of red pepper flakes
Soak the ancho chilies in boiling water for about 20 minutes or until they are soft. Remove the stems and seeds and blend them with some of the soaking liquid until you have a smooth thick puree.
Season lamb shanks with salt, black pepper, rosemary and thyme. Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large heavy bottom pot. When the oil is hot, begin to brown the lamb shanks on all sides until they get a nice golden brown sear. Be careful and control the flame to avoid burning the rosemary and thyme. Remove the shanks and set aside.
Sauté the onion and garlic in the same oil. Season with a generous pinch of extra salt and the sugar. When the onion and garlic are translucent and slightly beginning to brown add the ancho chili puree. Fry this together for about a minute. Add the tomato puree and fry this for another minute or two.
Return the lamb shanks to the pot; add the vegetable stock and wine. The liquid should come halfway up the sides of the lamb shanks. Turn the flame high, when the liquid begins to boil, cover the pot and turn the flame low.
Leave the lamb to cook for about 2 hours. Periodically stir and check on the shanks, turn them to avoid sticking and burning. Towards the end of the cooking time taste the sauce for salt and add more if you feel it needs it. I added more salt and ground black pepper. After two hours, remove the lamb shanks from the braising liquid and set aside. Use a hand blender to blend the liquid smooth until the sauce clings to a spoon. Then return the lamb shanks to the liquid and simmer the sauce on a low flame for a few minutes. Skim the fat off the top of the sauce as best as you can. Serve the lamb shanks over mashed potatoes and topped with the sauce.