Lamb shanks are so beautiful and dramatic, and lovely to serve at dinner parties. I paired these stunners with store-bought baba ganoush, sprinkled with ruby red pomegranate seeds, Aunt Lisa’s beet and carrot salads, and easy cous cous.
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/4 cup paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
8 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
Salt to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 quarts chicken stock
One 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
Harissa, for serving (see Note)
- In a small skillet, toast the cumin, fennel and coriander seeds over moderately low heat until just fragrant, about 1 minute; let cool completely. Grind the seeds in a spice grinder, then transfer to an airtight container. Stir in the paprika, black pepper, sugar, allspice and cayenne and cover the merguez spice blend until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 325°. Season the lamb with salt and dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Add 4 of the lamb shanks and cook over moderately high heat, turning frequently, until well browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb shanks to a plate and repeat with the remaining 4 shanks. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the casserole.
- Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the onion to the casserole and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 5 minutes. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the spice blend along with the tomato paste and cook until aromatic, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the chicken stock and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the tomatoes.
- Return the lamb to the casserole and pour in any accumulated juices. Add the chickpeas. Pour in just enough of the chicken stock to cover the meat and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and transfer to the oven. Braise the shanks for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bones.
- Transfer the braised lamb shanks to a large, deep platter. Using a large spoon, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the shanks and serve, passing harissa at the table.