I love a classic braise – a long, slow simmer in the oven turns even the toughest cuts into meltingly tender meat and produces an intensely flavorful “gravy.” You can use lamb shanks, lamb shoulder chops, or beef short ribs in this recipe. Cook them a day ahead of serving if you like. (Refrigerating makes removing the fat on the top easier.) You can also take the meat off the bones and serve the whole thing as a stew over grains, mashed potatoes, or noodles.

Serves 4

  • 1/2 ounce dried mushrooms
  • 3 to 4 pounds lamb shanks or lamb shoulder chops or beef short ribs
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots
  • 1 cup medium-diced onions
  • 1 cup medium-diced fennel bulb, core removed
  • 2 whole dried bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic, plus 8 cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or a combination of chicken broth and mushroom-soaking liquid)
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Mashed potatoes, rice, noodles, or grains for serving
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Combine the mushrooms with a cup or two of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let the mushrooms soften in the water. Strain the liquid and reserve it. Chop the mushrooms finely.

2. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large (6 to 8-quart) Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Season the meat all over with salt and pepper. Add as many pieces of meat to the pot as will fit and cook them, turning every 3 or 4 minutes, until they are browned in places on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with any remaining pieces of meat.

3. Pour off most of the fat from the pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the carrots, onion, fennel, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the reserved chopped dried mushrooms, the bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste, chopped garlic, and garlic pieces. Cook, stirring, until well-mixed and fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Pour about 1/2 cup of the red wine into the pot and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the liquid reduce to about 2 tablespoons, about 1 minute.

5. Transfer the ribs and juices back to the pot and add the remaining wine, chicken broth (or a combination of chicken broth and reserved mushroom cooking liquid), crushed tomatoes, and 1 cup water. Use tongs to arrange the meat pieces evenly.

6. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and put the pot in the oven. Cook, turning the meat with tongs about every 45 minutes, until the meat is completely fork-tender, about 2 3/4 to 3 hours.

7. With tongs, transfer the bones and any meat clinging to them to a plate, let the sauce cool a bit, and spoon off any fat that has risen to the top. Taste and season the sauce with more salt and pepper if necessary. Add the vinegar. Return the meat to the sauce (on the bone or off – your choice) and serve hot over potatoes, rice, or whatever you choose. Garnish with the parsley.

This recipe was originally published with the article, Hearty Shanks.