Love the taste of lamb for Easter but don't want to go to the bother of cooking a whole leg of lamb? This recipe combines stovetop smoking with slow cooking to produce fall-off-the-bone tender meat with a very rich, flavorful sauce. Although wonderful the day it is prepared, this entrée is even better after mellowing for a day. You'll need a stovetop smoker and a slow cooker (alternatively, the lamb shanks could be braised in a 325 degree F oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours after being smoked). Serve with roasted spring vegetables (recipe follows) and garlic mashed potatoes. Smoke and braise extra shanks for a wonderful lamb stew.
4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
1 tablespoon apple wood shavings
1 tablespoon hickory shavings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large celery ribs, cleaned and chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
10 Tellicherry peppercorns
2 cups Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cups beef stock, homemade preferred
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Trim any exterior fat from the shanks and season them with salt and pepper.
Prepare the stovetop smoker by adding 2 tablespoons of wood chips (1 tablespoon of hickory and 1 tablespoon of apple) under the drip pan. Place the lamb shanks in the smoker and tent aluminum foil over the shanks. Leave one corner of the foil loose and heat the smoker over medium heat.
Once smoke begins to show, tightly seal the foil and smoke the shanks for 20 minutes. Remove smoker from the stovetop and place shanks on a plate.
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 lamb shanks and brown them on all sides until golden brown. Remove them to a plate and brown the other 2 lamb shanks. Transfer the shanks to the plate.
Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of drippings from the skillet. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the skillet and cook them, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, peppercorns, wine, and stock; heat to boiling. Transfer the vegetables and liquid to a slow cooker set on high. Place the lamb shanks on top of the vegetables and cook, covered, for 4 to 6 hours on high or 9 to 10 hours on low. Remove the shanks and keep warm while finishing the sauce.
Strain the sauce through a fine mesh colander into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Allow sauce to reduce and thicken, about 15 minutes. (If desired, the sauce could be thickened with a cornstarch slurry.)
Yield: 4 servings