Lamb shanks have long been one of our favorite dinners....my mother often made them just with salt and pepper and roasted them in the oven. Not quite as tender as braising them, but something I still do once in a while when I don't have time to spare or don't want to fuss. There's a more gamey flavor roasted like this; lamb naturally has a slight gamey flavor anyway and shanks have an even stronger taste than a leg or loin chop. Some people really don't like lamb at all just for that reason, but braising them makes all the difference. My favorite recipe is an old Gourmet one that uses red wine, which I posted a while back. Shanks need a long, slow cook in a braising liquid with a soft, moist ingredient like beans or veggies.
When I received my recent issue of Donna Hay magazine, there was an orange and maple braised lamb shank recipe; the photo had my mouth watering and I made them recently. The recipe calls for "frenching" the shanks and I asked a butcher to do it for me as his knives are way sharper than mine. He'd never done it before and while they didn't turn out perfectly, he did a pretty good job. (There are uTube vids that show you how to do it if you want to take the chance of slicing yourself.)
As far as the malt vinegar ingredient is concerned, it's not something I have in my pantry, but was surprised to find it in my local supermarket. As we know, there are many kinds of vinegars, but I'd never used this one, so looked it up. Malt vinegar is a dark brown vinegar, a favorite in Britain (makes sense as Donna Hay is an Australian magazine), is reminiscent of deep-brown ale. Its production begins with the germination, or sprouting, of barley kernels. Germination enables enzymes to break down starch. Sugar is formed, and the resulting product is brewed into an alcohol-containing malt beverage or ale. After bacteria convert the ale to vinegar, the vinegar is aged. As its name implies, malt vinegar has a distinctive malt flavor. We learn something every day!
We really liked these shanks; they're slightly sweeter than the red wine recipe, obviously, as maple syrup and brown sugar are two of the ingredients, but the malt vinegar stops them from being too overpowering. A lovely fall supper. The mint sauce is a killer recipe....thick, glossy, tart and minty.
Orange and Maple Braised Lamb Shanks with Fresh Mint Sauce
Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 76
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
6 lamb shanks, trimmed and frenched
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
8 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup malt vinegar
peel of one orange
1/2 cup orange juice
4 rosemary sprigs
For the mint sauce:
3/4 cup malt vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups mint leaves, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in large frying pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the shanks and brown on all sides. Place in a deep sided roasting pan and set aside.
In a saucepan, add the stock, garlic, maple syrup, peel, juice and rosemary. Bring to a boil and pour over the shanks. Cover with foil and roast the shanks for 2 1/2 hours, turning once.
Increase oven temp to 425.
Remove the foil and roast the shanks, turning every 15 minutes for another 45 to 50 minutes or until they are sticky and glossy.
While the shanks are cooking, make the mint sauce.
Place the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan, stir until combined. bring to a boil and cook for 5-6 minutes or until just thickened. Remove from heat, allow to cool and add the fresh mint, stirring to combine.
Place the lamb shanks on a serving plate. Serve lamb with pan juices and mint sauce.
9/11 Never Forget