BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
This could not be more straightforward. Lamb shanks are first browned and then placed in a covered pot and braised in a seasoned liquid over low heat until they are meltingly tender. Shanks are inexpensive, and they can be cooked in advance, making party preparation less frenetic. Note:
Two kinds of lamb shanks can be found in the grocery. Foreshanks are larger and meatier, but they have more connective tissue. The slow cooking should melt most of that tissue, however, and as it melts it improves the taste and consistency of the sauce. Hind shanks are smaller and leaner, and some think they offer a more elegant presentation.
The dishes that follow can be made as long as 2 days in advance. Allow them to cool completely in their sauce, then refrigerate them, covered. Once they are thoroughly chilled, spoon off and discard the fat that accumulates on the surface of the sauce. Remove them from the refrigerator several hours before you intend to use them, and allow them to come to room temperature. Reheat them gently before serving.
I have not personally tried this, but I am told that these recipes work well in a slow cooker. Most recipes tell you to place beans, spices, chopped herbs and vegetables, stock and/or tomato paste into a slow cooker and stir to combine. Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper, brown them as directed (about 8 minutes per batch) in a large, deep skillet, then transfer them to the slow cooker. Add a cup or so of wine or other braising liquid to the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer and scrape up any browned cooking residue from the pan bottom. Pour the contents of the skillet over the lamb in the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 5-1/2 to 6 hours, or until the shanks are tender and pulling away from the bone. Remove the shanks to a platter and finish them as directed in the recipes.
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