Lamb shanks are rich, meaty, and succulent as the layer of fat that envelopes each shank bastes them while they cook. This Moroccan version features aromatic spices, which blend to give the shanks a punchy taste, while never overpowering their natural flavor. The addition of pomegranate juice brings a subtle sweet tart flavor to the sauce.
Behind the Counter: The singular taste of lamb shanks really has no equal. Alternate cuts short ribs (+$) or osso buco (+$) or even turkey drumsticks cut osso buco style (-$).
4(12- to 16-ounce) lamb shanks Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoonsolive oil 1large onion, sliced 6 clovesgarlic, smashed 1 teaspoonground cinnamon 1 teaspoonground coriander 1/2 teaspoonground ginger 1 teaspoonground cumin 1 teaspoonkosher salt 2 dozenjuniper berries 2 tablespoonstomato paste 1 cupsweet red wine 2 cupsbeef stock 1 cuppomegranate juice (derived from the seeds of 1 large or 2 medium pomegranates) or bottled juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the shanks with kosher salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a braising pot and brown the shanks, over medium to high heat, on all sides, about 10 minutes. Be sure to stand the shanks on the edges to brown all sides. Remove the shanks and cook and stir the onion and garlic, over medium heat, until lightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spices, tomato paste, wine and stock. Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the shanks to the pot cover and roast at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Check the shanks every 30 minutes, turning them over in the sauce each time you check and admire them. While the lamb cooks, Process the pomegranate seeds if starting from scratch (see feedback), otherwise take a well deserved break.
When the lamb is nearly cooked, after 1 1/2 hours, add the pomegranate juice. Continue cooking 30 minutes longer or until the meat on the shank is buttery soft and nearly falling off the bone. When finished, the sauce will be thick and concentrated (you can thin it with a little water or stock if needed). Spoon the sauce over the shanks and serve alongside rice, noodles or couscous.
While pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants, their real power is to stain anything porous they come in contact with. If you are working with fresh pomegranates, I applaud your initiative. Late fall, October and November is the best time to buy fresh pomegranates, when they burst off the shelves with ripe seeds. Here are some tips for handling this persnickety fruit.
1. Wear something that can take a joke, you could end up looking like a victim from Law and Order, stained with red splatters
2. Cut, then squeeze the pomegranates over a bowl so you don't lose any of the precious juice. There is additional juice in the tiny seeds. To juice those, fill a bowl with water, with your fingers gently loosen the seeds, over the bowl, and separate them from the papery membrane. The seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl, while the thin fiber will float. Strain the water, reserving the seeds.
3. Pulverize most of the seeds in a blender (reserve a few for garnish). Strain the liquid pressing on the solids to extract all the juice. Discard the solids. Between the squeezed juice and the pureed seeds, you should have about ¾ – to- 1- cup of fresh juice from 1 large or 2 medium pomegranates.
Alternatively, you can buy pomegranate juice. It's cleaner, easier but not nearly as much fun!