Growing up in a religious home, Easter Sunday was a significant day. Drawing on our Anabaptist roots, this holiday was focused on themes of redemption, forgiveness, and second chances. In reflecting on an ideal Easter meal, there is no better poetry than to prepare a lamb shank, an outcast of the lamb cuts, for the main dish.
The lamb shank is considered a secondary cut; it is full of connective tissue, collagen, and fat – things that we mostly shy away from in selecting a centerpiece protein. The irony here is that it is precisely these messy elements of the meat that make a well-prepared lamb shank so delightful. To maximize the flavor and tenderness of the shank, incorporate both a smoking and a braising phase into the preparation. While this will add to your overall cooking time, there is little additional effort required, and the results are extremely rewarding.
Regardless of your religious persuasion, may we all embrace the theme of redemption as we emerge into spring!
- 4-8 lamb shanks (ask the butcher to have them “Frenched” to expose the upper bone)
- Savory barbecue rub (something with garlic is always good, but avoid the “honey” based or sweet rubs)
- 2 cups red wine
- 3 bottles full-flavored beer (a few for the braising, another to drink while you work)
- Two bouquets garnis of thyme and rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- Set smoker/barbecue to 250-275 F
- Use a hickory or mesquite wood for smoking
- Season all sides of the shanks with the savory rub and let seasoning set for 10 minutes
- Add shanks to the smoker/bbq and smoke until they reach an internal temperature of 165 F (about 2.5 hours)
- Preheat oven to 250 F (or keep smoker on and use that)
- Combine red wine and beer and season generously with salt and pepper
- Place the smoked shanks in an oven-safe braising pan/pot, single layer deep
- Add the wine/beer mixture to the braising pan until the liquid covers just half of the shanks (the other half will be exposed
- Add the bouquets garnis to the liquid
- Place the pan/pot, uncovered, into the oven (or smoker) and continue to cook until the internal temperature is 203-208 F (about 1.5 hours)
- Pull the shanks from the oven and let rest in the braising liquid for 30-45 minutes
- The lamb can be served on bone or deboned, depending on preference
- Reduce the braising liquid to serve with the meat au jus
- Plate with a sprig of rosemary