Balsamic Fig Braised Lamb Shank

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I love lamb. It’s flavourful, versatile, and many people find it easier to access pasture-raised lamb than some of the other non-wild red meats.

One of the things I love most about lamb though, is its incredible nutrient density. Containing arguably more omega-3 fatty acids than grass-fed beef, lamb is a non-inflammatory high protein powerhouse. Iron, B12, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, B6, phosphorus, selenium, potassium, thiamin, magnesium…the list is long and extraordinarily beneficial for a variety of wellness considerations including muscle growth and maintenance, cognitive function, mood balance, and immune strength. 

From the lower section of the leg, lamb shanks are a full-flavored but tough cut of meat. Because of this, shanks respond well to slow, gentle braising in aromatic liquid. The shanks are first browned to give them colour and enhance the flavour,  and then slowly cooked in the oven until they’re falling-off-the-bone tender.

Now, as I write this it’s peek fig season, and I absolutely LOVE the combination of fig and lamb, but know that you can make these any time of the year and either sub in some dried figs or leave them completely out. Or of course, you could get super creative and try apples during apple season, or even toss in some oranges, which pair beautifully with the rosemary. Either way, braising is essentially fool-proof, so don’t worry about messing it up. And also try not to be turned off by the long cook time. I usually make these sorts of dishes on a Sunday evening and do a little housework or other meal prep for the week while the shanks braise-away. The time flies by and before I know it, I’m enjoying an exquisite Sunday night feast reminiscent of any 5-star dining experience!

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Balsamic Fig Braised Lamb Shank

 

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2-3 hours

Servings: Around 3 or 4

 

Ingredients

  • 3 large lamb shanks (or 4 smaller ones)
  • About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots, peeled and sliced in half or quarters
  • 2 cups bone broth
  • 1 cup organic/biodynamic red wine 
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 6 fresh figs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

 

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large deep pan or pot (I use Le Creuset’s 25cm French Round Dutch Oven), over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and brown the shanks on all sides, working in batches if needed, for about 5 minutes total.
  4. Transfer the browned shanks to a platter.
  5. Add the shallots to the pot and sauté gently until golden and translucent (about 3 to 5 minutes).
  6. Add the wine, broth, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, garlic, figs, and browned shanks and bring to a simmer or low boil.
  7. Cover the pan, transfer to the oven and cook until the meat is almost falling off the bone, about 2 hours (you’ll also want to turn the shanks half way through).
  8. Using tongs, transfer the shanks to a serving platter.
  9. Remove the rosemary from the juices, and using a hand-held blender, puree everything in the pot together until smooth.
  10. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper if desired (you can even thicken it up with a little bit of tapioca flour if you’re into that), and pour over the shanks before serving.