Slow Braised Pomegranate Lamb Shanks
Slow Braised Pomegranate Lamb ShanksThese slow braised pomegranate lamb shanks are perfect for Valentine's Day or your next dinner party. They can be easily made for 2 or 12, assuming you have a Dutch oven large enough to hold the shanks in a single layer. These shanks are gorgeous; your kitchen will smell amazing while they are cooking; and your guests and loved ones will think you worked all day. Fortunately, not so. These glossy beauties are so easy and simple you will think you are missing a step or an ingredient.
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The Delights of Denver's RiNo District
Walking around RiNo and the surrounding areas is fun way to see the street artThis is the long story of how this pomegranate recipe came to be. My daughter Lauren and her husband Cam live in Denver in the very hip RiNo district, short for RIver NOrth, also called River North Arts District. The neighborhood is the creative rebirth of a defunct industrial area that caught the eye of a variety of artists in the late 90's. Today it is a mecca for creatives and is booming with restaurants, breweries, art galleries, cool hotels, tech start ups, music, food trucks, small-batch coffee roasters, outdoor gear retailers, co-op work spaces and larger than life community art murals. It is literally millennial heaven.
Our Mutual Friends Brewery is one of my daughter's favorite in RiNoOut of all the things RiNo has to offer, restaurants are what particularly grab my attention. Go figure! There is at least one new restaurant every time we visit and we get to RiNo a few times a year. From casual and edgy to chic and pricy, there are some wonderful places to choose from. For a tasty, healthy breakfast or lunch go to Stowaway. I'm in love with their Scram breakfast sandwich. For the best sushi dinner I have ever eaten go to Uchi. I know, it is counter intuitive to eat fish in land-locked Denver, but trust me this place is awesome. WSJ says "Best sushi this side of Japan." Trip Advisor praises Uchi as "the 4th best restaurant in the U.S." Chef Tyson Cole now has seven restaurants so you can also eat at Uchi and her sister restaurants in Austin and Houston.
Inspired by Alon ShayaThat is the background story on how this recipe came to be. On our last trip to RiNo Lauren took us to chef Alon Shaya's Safta, an Israeli restaurant. And OMG, what a delicious feast we had. Their hummus is unspeakably good and comes with a variety of delectable toppings. Eat the hummus with their wood fired puffy pita bread and you really don't need much else, except a nice glass of wine. We, of course, went big and ordered an array of dishes to share. The stand out dish was their braised pomegranate lamb shank. The enormous shank arrived bathed in an aromatic, dark glossy sauce and was fork-tender. Braised lamb shanks are wonderful and I have a classic wine-braised osso buco-style recipe that has been a favorite on SNFD for years, but the pomegranate lamb shank at Safta is truly unique.
The kitchen at Safta where delicious things are madeI pestered our waiter for how it is prepared and he shared that it was made with orange juice, pomegranate syrup and a bit of brown sugar. That was all I needed. I came home and immediately went to the store and bought some lamb shanks, fresh orange juice and refreshed my supply of pomegranate syrup. I nailed the recipe on the first try and so will you. Thank you Alon Shaya for this very delicious pomegranate lamb preparation and to the waiter who shared the simple ingredients with me. I would have added wine to the braise if left to my own devices, but found it was not needed one bit. I've also added garlic and rosemary to the braising liquids. Skip it and keep it simple.
Make Pomegranate Lamb Shanks Ahead of TimeIf you want, you can make these pomegranate lamb shanks a day in advance. Sear and braise the lamb, then remove them from the sauce and store them in the fridge. Strain the cooking liquid and store it separately in a container in the fridge. When you are ready to make the sauce, skim the fat off the top that has solidified and then follow the recipe instructions to reduce and thicken the sauce. Warm the shanks in a 250 degree oven. When the shanks are hot, plate them, brush them with the sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds and chopped mint.
What to Serve With Serve Pomegranate Lamb ShanksI developed a delicious side dish to serve with this lamb: Fully Loaded Israeli Couscous Salad. It starts with Israeli couscous and a bevy of dried & fresh fruit, nuts, herbs and either arugula or baby spinach. The salad is tossed in with a citrus dressing. I like to plate the lamb on a bed of arugula and then mound the couscous around the lamb. This couscous can be made a day or two ahead of time and comes together in about half an hour. Read the recipe to learn what Israeli couscous is and how it differs from North African couscous. Print
Slow Braised Pomegranate Lamb Shanks
These intensely flavorful lamb shanks are slow braised in orange juice and pomegranate syrup. The recipe can be made for a special dinner for two or can be expanded for a large dinner party.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
- Olive oil
- 4 lamb shanks
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 cups fresh orange juice (don’t use cheap concentrated oj for this recipe)
- 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
- 2 T brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 T butter or ghee (optional)
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds for garnish
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Rub the shanks with a bit of olive oil and season the lamb chops with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Heat a large heavy bottomed pan such as a Le Creuset Dutch oven, and when it is hot add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the lamb shanks and sear the lamb on all sides. Make sure you do not overcrowd the pot while you sear or the meat will steam and not sear properly. Sear in batches if need be.
- Remove the shanks and set aside to rest on a plate. Add the onion and briefly cook until onion begins to color. Add orange juice, pomegranate molasses, brown sugar and a cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and add the lamb shanks, turning so they are well coated with the sauce. The shanks should be in a single layer. Bring back to a boil and remove from the stove top. Cover with a lid and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours until the lamb is fork tender. The time may vary a bit depending on the size of your shanks.
- Remove the shanks from the pot and place on a platter. Cover with foil while you make the sauce. Strain the cooking liquid through a mesh strainer into a large measuring cup. Ladle off any excess oil that floats to the top. Return the strained liquid to the pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened, stirring periodically. An option is to add a bit of butter to the sauce. It is nice, but it is not imperative. If you do, remove the thickened sauce from the heat and whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of butter.
- Spoon the sauce over the lamb shanks and garnish with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.