Braised Lamb Shanks Red Wine-Serrano Pepper Sauce and Sweet Potato Risotto…. And a rant on why you must buy the best ingredients you can

DSCN2156  Done with turkey for a little while?  Having date night in tonight?  I have something for you :)

I can’t take full credit for this- we adapted this recipe from Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook- making a few changes here and there- but keeping his general flavors the same.

See his recipe, here.

We loved this dish-  and I was most surprised that I loved it because I can be really iffy on lamb in general.  Usually it is too gamey- but when we made these I could tell by the way that it smelled while it was searing that I would be just fine (AKA- the house wasn’t filled with the distinct odor of lamb).  I can’t take much credit for this-  most of the meat that we use comes from our CSA and is super fresh and really high quality-  so when you are shopping for this dish- look for lamb that was raised as close to your house as possible (less miles to travel- Australian lamb has to fly to you from Australia- you are paying for fridge/freezer, a plane ticket, etc!)- and is raised on mostly grass.  Don’t get me wrong, I am certain you can buy fantastic lamb from New Zealand or Australia and really love it- and I am also certain that they are feeding their sheep grass and letting them roam- but still the idea of flying my dinner in from around the world makes me do a double take.

Anyhow-  you are going to be looking for 4 1Lb, bone-in shanks for this recipe.


Also, you will need a couple of cups of decent wine-  something that you would drink.  Something not made with chemicals and chemical flavor, please!  I may be sensitive in some way, but I will NEVER forget early on in our cooking hobby when a recipe called for nearly an entire bottle of wine and reducing it to sauce consistency- we used something cheap- something with an animal on the front- and ALL I could taste was something strange and metallic and fake fruit.  You do not want to be reducing added sugars and whatever else they have done in a factory.  This does not mean expensive wine, either- but ask your wine merchant if they have anything that would work.  I find a lot of South American wines fit the bill-  you can usually find a carmenere or malbec that isn’t mass produced for under $10 that will reduce into something that tastes great.

I am spending a lot of time discussing what not to buy on this page today- but I cannot stress enough the importance of buying the very best that you can afford when it comes to meats (especially) and veggies.  These are the basis for your dishes- you cannot improve bad meat or even mediocre meat- the easiest way to have a stellar dinner is to start with conscientious shopping.  This also means that if the store does not have what you are looking for- DO NOT forge ahead and buy something crappy- change your plans!  This recipe would work really well with short ribs, chuck roast, brisket, pork shoulder or butt-  basically any meat that gets a lot better by a long slow cook in some liquid.

OK OK…  back to the food.  Get your onion, carrot, and celery chopped up into 1/2 inch pieces or so, and set them in a bowl near the stove.  Heat some olive oil in a dutch oven, and sear the lamb (that you have seasoned with salt and pepper) until golden on all sides.

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Set the lamb aside for a moment.  Now we build the flavor for our braise!  In addition to the delicious brown bits left in the bottom of the pan, we now add our mirepoix – the onions, carrots, and celery-  and cook until  lightly golden.


Next, we deglaze the pan with the 2 cups of wine!

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In addition to the wine, at this time we are also adding about 4 cups of chicken stock.  We have this on hand at all times- homemade.  I am going to do a post on this- but seriously, as I mentioned earlier about the wine and the meat- this is a major flavor enhancing component and you want to be adding real flavor- not watered down MSG.  Seriously-  Cook’s Illustrated did a chicken stock review (they recommend Swanson’s Stock for Cooking- I like Kitchen Basics)-  but apparently most of the stock on the market is manufactured by the same company (that makes a reduced chicken gel)- and then each brand waters it down to their own specifications. yeah.  Make your own.

The herbs for this puppy are going to be a bunch of thyme springs (tie them in a bundle so it is easy to pick the stems out).  Add the thyme after the wine and stock.  Also, add the meat back into the liquid.  Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to low.  Cover the pot.

Flay’s recipe calls for cooking in the oven for 2 1/2 hours at 350.  Our oven was full of things like pecan pie bars and biscotti that all needed a slightly hotter oven- so we did ours on the stove for about half the time and then put it in the oven.  Nothing bad happened.  Do yours in the oven if you aren’t multi-tasking like a fiend.  However, make room in the oven for one large sweet potato-  roast that sucker for about an hour.  We need it for the risotto!

Speaking of the risotto, I nearly skipped this component of Flay’s recipe-  I mean, carbs on carbs?  Can’t we just make sweet potatoes and call it a day?  Course you can.  But this will not disappoint you.


Flay suggests putting your roasted potato through a ricer.  Ours was SO ROASTED it just squished through the ricer.  Total waste of time.  It would easily mash up with a fork- and honestly it just breaks down in the risotto so I thought this was totally unnecessary.  Skip it!

Chop up another large onion.  Get some olive oil going in a heavy bottomed pan, and saute the onion. When it is translucent, add the arborio rice.  Toast it in the oil and onion until it is fragrant and even a little golden-  this is a major step in building flavor.


Next, add a cup of dry white wine.  Same rules apply as for the  lamb.  Since we’ve gone over cooking with wine, I am going to try not to talk about it again.  Cook the rice and wine until the wine is totally absorbed into the rice.  Next, heat a mixture of stock (any type- we used leftover beef stock- but chicken stock works just fine) and water- you will need about 4-6 cups of liquid.DSCN2138

DSCN2140Add a ladle of liquid at a time, stirring frequently until that cup of stock has been absorbed into the rice.  Stirring and slowly adding the liquid makes the rice really really creamy.  I find this to be a soothing process.  I also find that each time I make risotto I need a different amount of liquid- so have more than you think you need on hand.  Continue adding stock and stirring until the rice is al dente.  Also, you can add the potato to the rice at this time- and now- the yummiest part of all- 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  We “grate” ours in the food processor.


Set the risotto aside.  We will loosen it up and season it in a sec.  Right now we need to take the lamb out of the oven!

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Take the lamb out of the pot.  We strained the veggies out of the sauce and put the liquid into a saucepan- I was starving and knew that if I reduced the liquid in a pan with larger surface area things would go faster.

At the same time, I got some shallot cooking in olive oil for the chanterelle mushrooms.  Flay roasts them- I did them on the stove using my “best mushrooms ever” method.  They were awesome.

Add 1/2 a cup of brown sugar and 3 finely diced serrano peppers  to the lamb liquid and reduce until it is at sauce consistency.  Sauce consistency is pretty thick- and since we have used stock, and bone in lamb, and have added sugar- this sauce has enough collagen in it to coat the back of a spoon.   When the sauce is thick- add red wine vinegar- between 1/4 and 1/2 a cup.  This depends on how zippy you want the sauce.  Taste it and see what you think.  Also, add salt and pepper to taste.  You should be pretty amazed at how awesome it is.

Back to the ‘shrooms.  Add them to the toasted shallot-  they will crowd the pan a little.  I know, I know-  we are not supposed to do this.  Whatever.  Don’t salt them- just let them release their liquid, cook down a bit- and when the liquid is mostly gone don’t stir them too much- you should notice that they are getting really lovely and brown.  Season them at this point- with salt- and add some reserved shallot and thyme at this point.  Maybe a pat of butter, too.  If you are on a paleo diet or want to skips the butter- that’s fine.

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Add the shanks back to the pan, warm them through.  Go back to the risotto- if it has tightened up add a little more stock and stir.  Season with salt and pepper.DSCN2149

Now that we have all of our components-  lamb, sauce, risotto and mushrooms- we can plate.  I put some risotto in the center, placed the lamb on that, some mushrooms off to the side, and then spooned sauce over the lamb.  Garnish was a few pine nuts and some thyme.DSCN2151 DSCN2154Open an awesome, rich red wine- sit at the table, and enjoy!  This serves 4 easily.  If you are only 2 (or 1!) now you have ridiculous lunches for a few days.  For paleo diets-  skip the rice- but do a sweet potato mash for sure.  Do the mushrooms only in olive oil- and with very little modification this is easily cave-man worthy.  om nom.

I have leftover risotto- guess what??  Arancini today.

Braised Lamb Shanks Red Wine-Serrano Pepper Sauce
Recipe type: Braise
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 4 1lb Lamb Shanks
  • 1 Large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 6ish springs of Thyme
  • 3 serrano chiles, minced
  • ½ Cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼-1/2 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
For the Risotto:
  • 1 Large Sweet Potato, Roasted for 1 hour at 350, peeled and smashed lightly with a fork
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 Cups of stock (chicken, beef or veggie)
  • 1 Large Onion
  • 1½ Cups Arborio Rice
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  • ½ Cup Parmesan Cheese
For the Chanterelles:
  • 8 oz Mushrooms (can sub any type of mushroom available)
  • 1 Shallot, minced. Reserve approximately 1 Tablespoon of shallot.
  • Thyme
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil
  1. Season the lamb with salt and pepper
  2. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven
  3. Add the lamb and sear on all sides until golden brown
  4. Remove the lamb and and the onion, carrot and celery. Cook until lightly golden.
  5. Add the wine, stock and thyme- deglaze the pot, scraping any brown bits off the bottom.
  6. Add the lamb back to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and braise, covered, for 2½ hours. Alternatively, place in a 350 degree oven for 2½ hours.
For the Sauce:
  1. When the lamb is done, remove the meat from the pot. Strain the vegetables out of the sauce and place the liquid in a saucepan. Add sugar and serrano peppers. Reduce until sauce consistency is achieved. Add vinegar to taste, season with salt and pepper. Add the lamb back to the sauce to keep warm.
For the Risotto:
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add the rice and cook until toasted lightly.
  2. Heat 3 cups of stock and 3 cups of water together in a pot, keep nearby.
  3. Add the wine to the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until totally absorbed.
  4. Add heated stock mixture to the rice in 1 cup increments, stirring and cooking after each addition until the liquid is absorbed. The rice is done when it is al dente.
  5. Add the sweet potato.
  6. Add the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. The risotto can be held at this point to wait for dinner to be completed- simply loosen it with more stock.
For the Mushrooms:
  1. Saute shallot in olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms and allow them to cook until they have given off all of their liquid and begin to brown.
  3. Continue browning mushrooms until they are all golden and delicious looking. At this time add the remaining shallot, time, and season with salt. Add a little butter, if desired. Keep warm on the stove.
To finish:
  1. Place risotto on the plate; lamb and mushrooms over the risotto. Spoon the sauce over the lamb and risotto- ENJOY!




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One Response to Braised Lamb Shanks Red Wine-Serrano Pepper Sauce and Sweet Potato Risotto…. And a rant on why you must buy the best ingredients you can

  1. Charlotte says:

    I am drooling. I love lamb shanks. Nice explanation of everything!

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