Borrowing from the classic lamb combo served with mint jelly, this comforting dish braises the lesser used cut of lamb shank until fork tender, then jazzes it all up with a mint and orange. It’s a great way to introduce spring into the meal any time of the year.
What to buy: We used lamb shanks for this recipe; most high-end butchers and grocery stores carry it.
Game plan: The pesto can be prepared and the shanks fully cooked up to 2 days in advance. Just don’t stir in the pesto until the last minute. To serve, reheat the shanks on the stove over medium-low heat, then stir in the pesto.
This recipe was featured as part of our Hosting Your First Passover menu.
- Yields: 4 servings
- Difficulty: Average
- Total: 2h40
- active: 1 hour
For the lamb:
- 4 (12 ounces to 1 pound) whole lamb shanks, trimmed of excess fat
- 12 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium celery ribs, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or water
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
For the pesto:
- 3 cups packed fresh mint leaves
- 2 cups packed fresh Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 medium garlic clove
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
For the lamb:
- Heat the oven to 325°F and place a rack in the lower third. Using a paring knife and starting at the tapered end of the shank, cut between the meat and the bone and work along the bone to create a pocket about 3 inches long. Stuff each lamb shank with 3 garlic cloves and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or deep ovenproof saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is smoking, add the shanks and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. (You may need to do this in 2 batches.) Remove to a plate and set aside.
- Remove the pan from the heat until it no longer smokes. Add 1 tablespoon of remaining olive oil and return to medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the celery, carrot and onion, season with salt and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add wine or water and cook, scraping up browned bits. Increase the heat to high and nest the shanks among the vegetables, then add the broth and any accumulated juices (the broth should surround, but not cover, the shanks). Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, cover and transfer to the oven. Braise the shanks, turning them about every 45 minutes, until the meat is fork tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook, turning once, until the meat is fork tender and pulls away from the bone, about 25 minutes more. Meanwhile, prepare the pesto.
For the pesto:
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the mint, parsley, orange juice, salt and garlic and blend until smooth. With processor running, add oil in a thin stream until evenly incorporated. Stir in the orange zest and set aside.
To finish the lamb:
- Remove the lamb from the oven, transfer it to a plate and strain the sauce through a fine strainer into a bowl. Discard the vegetables and return the sauce to the pot. Add the pesto, stir to combine, then return the shanks to the sauce, turn to coat and cook over low heat until heated through. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed.