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 Braised Lamb Shanks with Pickled Lemons and Spiced Olives

I first did this dish in a tagine at a cooking class in 2002. As you know I like the tagine as the perfect “Dutch oven for two” (here, here and here).  This recipe, again inspired by Wolfert, is dinner for eight.  Two Dutch ovens will be needed, each holding 4 shanks. 

If you want to use a tagine, do the recipe with two shanks and reduce the other ingredients accordingly.

Yield:  8 servings 
See Abbreviations, if needed

·   8           lamb shanks
·   A spice mixture of:
        ¼ t       each, turmeric and cumin 
        ½ t       freshly ground pepper
        1 t        each, ginger and paprika
        pinch     saffron 
·   A sachet of:  1T each of chopped parsley and cilantro stems
·   ¼ C    olive oil 
·   4 C      chicken broth or stock
·   3          medium onion, diced 
·   1 C      green-ripe or red-brown olives
·   4          preserved lemon, cut into eighths and washed
·   salt       to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350F 
2.  Dust lamb shanks with salt and pepper or a Mid East seasoning such as 
     Baharat or Ras-el-Hanout
3.  On the stovetop, brown lamb shanks thoroughly in large Dutch ovens with olive oil
4.  Remove lamb shanks and set aside
5.  Deglaze the Dutch ovens with a little water and a wooden scraper
6.  In one Dutch oven, add some more olive oil and sweat the onions to translucent
7.  Add half of the chicken broth, the spice mixture and bring to boil
8.  Divide the onion and stock mixture to both Dutch ovens
9.  Reduce heat to medium and return the shanks to the Dutch ovens
10.  Add the sachet of herbs to one Dutch oven
11. Add the remaining chicken broth to both Dutch ovens
12.  Bring to boil
13.  Cover the Dutch ovens and place it in the oven at 350F
14.  Braise for about 2 hours or until the lamb is falling off the bone
15.  When done, turn off the oven and place the Dutch ovens on the stovetop
16.  Skim the fat from the sauce in the Dutch ovens (See note)
17.  Remove the lamb shanks and set aside to keep warm in the turned-off oven
18.  Carefully pour the sauces into one Dutch oven or into a large sauté pan
19.  If the sauce is too thick, add water (not broth or stock)
20.  Bring the sauce to boil, taste and adjust seasoning
21.  Add the lemons and olives.  Reduce the sauce to about 3 cups of sauce.
22.  On heated plates, place lamb shanks over rice or couscous, spoon the sauce 
       over the lamb 
Note:  A lot of fat will be rendered out of the shanks during braising.  The trick is to get it all out quickly and without losing a lot of sauce.  Here's how: 
a.  De-fat the pots before taking the shanks out
b.  Use a slotted spoon or strainer and a bulb baster to withdraw the fat
c.  Use the slotted spoon or strainer in one hand to hold the onions and other stuff in the sauce at bay, then place the suction tip of the baster on top of the spoon and draw up the fat without clogging the baster with onions and stuff. 



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