Brew-Braised Lamb Shanks with Apple Butter & Sauerkraut

Winter 2009 Recipe

Contributed by Edible Communities

Gail Gordon Oliver

When I contemplated creating a main course dish that would be perfect for a cold winter day, lamb shanks came to mind. I enjoy braising bone-in meats: the bones add a huge amount of flavour, as well as natural gelatin for thickening. As I did in the H’Ale and Hearty Beef Stew recipe in our Winter 2007 issue, I’ve added red lentils as a thickening agent here, as well. I also like to play around with sweet, salty and tangy elements, and have used apple butter (Wellesley brand, from Ontario), sauerkraut (from Marvellous Edibles), and canned tomatoes (I adore Thomas Utopia  canned organic tomato products, grown and canned right here in Ontario) to create a scrumptious mélange of homegrown ingredients. This recipe would also work well with beef short ribs or oxtail.

Makes 6 servings

  • 6 Ontario lamb shanks, 3/4-pound to 1 pound each
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) Ontario beer
  • 2 cups beef or chicken broth
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes
  • ½ cup sauerkraut juice
  • 1 cup drained sauerkraut
  • ½ cup apple butter
  • 1 small rutabaga (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/3 cup dried red lentils
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen twine, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried juniper berries, lightly crushed, optional
  • 3 bay leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 325º F. Dry the lamb shanks well. Sprinkle the lamb shanks on all sides with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook three of the lamb shanks until deeply browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Repeat with the remaining three lamb shanks, lowering the heat a bit if necessary to prevent burning. Remove the lamb shanks to a plate. Spoon out all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan.

2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook for 1 minute. Increase the heat to high. Add the beer and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the beer is reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Add the broth, canned tomatoes with liquid, sauerkraut juice, sauerkraut and apple butter. Stir well to combine, lightly breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rutabaga, lentils, thyme, juniper berries (if using) and bay leaves. Return to a boil.

4. Transfer the contents of the sauté pan to a roasting or braising pan large enough to hold the lamb shanks in a single layer. Add the lamb shanks and any juices to the pan, nestling them in among the vegetables and spooning over some of the liquid. Cover tightly with the pan’s lid or with foil. Bake in a 325ºF oven until the lamb is fork tender, about 2 hours. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Remove the lamb shanks to a platter. Spoon off and discard any visible fat from the sauce, then stir the sauce well. Serve the lamb smothered in sauce and vegetables, accompanied with mashed potatoes.

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