Moroccan Lamb Shanks
Lamb is one of my favorite proteins. The fat content is decadent and just perfect, and I love the earthy and gamey nature of the meat. I enjoy lamb chops and leg of lamb, even a lamb burger now and then, but the best way to enjoy it is the shank. I fell in love with this cut while working for a restaurant company in Fells Point. They had two delicious preparations in two of their outposts. The first, was a full entrée, the shank was braised in a sweet, pepper, and clove spiced sauce, the second, and still served at Mezze, was similarly braised to fall-off-the-bone perfection and served in a light tomatoey sauce that I suspect was enriched with cinnamon and anise. I took my inspiration in part from these favorites, but also from an article I read about food and travel in morocco. I have always been enamored with the cuisine of the northern and eastern sides of the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, France, and Greece) but the flavors of her African shores had a special exciting mystique. The confluence of western European, African, Arabic and Asian cultures means unique ingredients and deep, often complex, dark flavors with a spicy edge that you just don’t find anywhere else. Harissa is a ubiquitous ingredient throughout the cuisine of many north African countries and beyond, and is one of my favorite flavoring agents. Harissa is a red chili paste, usually made from serrano and Baklouti peppers, and featuring other spices like garlic, caraway, and coriander. Harissa delivers a slow creeping heat of varying intensity depending on the types of chilies used. The subtlety of the heat, and how well it plays with without overpowering other flavors, is why I love to use it whenever I can. The sugars and fruit notes of the wine in this recipe, and the fragrant rosemary, anise and fennel are the perfect complement to the headlining harissa and lamb. I hope you enjoy!
- 4 lamb shanks
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 can tomato paste
- 2-3 yukon gold or russet potatoes (cut into 1 in thick chunks)
- 1 large onion (rough chop)
- 3 large carrots (cut into 1 in thick chunks)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon harissa (paste or powder, add more to your taste)
- 1 teaspoon each - Rosemary, thyme, oregano, anise seed, fennel seed
- 3 bay leaves
Do in the morning:
At meal time:
In a large dutch oven or sauté pan you can cover, pour the cooking liquid from the crock pot. Add the potatoes and carrots, any large pieces of onion that are still intact, and the bay leaves. Add a little more red wine if needed and cook for 30 minutes, covered, or until the vegetables are soft. Season with salt and pepper at this point. When you are ready to serve, carefully remove the twine from the lamb shanks, and gently place them in the simmering sauce. Bathe them with the sauce and allow them to took covered (come up in tempt) for about 5 minutes. I served mine in the cooking vessel family style, topped with saffron petals to highlight the fragrant sauce.