Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe

Although not “officially” a Jewish recipe, lamb shanks long have been popular with traditional Jewish cooks. What makes this recipe more interesting than the usual comfort-food variety is the addition of black bean garlic sauce, a pungent and thoroughly delicious sauce available at all Asian markets and also 5-spice powder, a richly aromatic seasoning which adds an additional layer of flavor.

Ingredients:

12 Shiitake mushrooms
2 ½ cups boiling water
1 3-inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled, thickly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled
¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
4 ½ Tablespoons black bean garlic sauce*
6 teaspoons peanut oil
1 ½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder**
6 large lamb shanks
¾ cup thinly sliced green onions
¾ cup dry sherry

Directions:

Place mushrooms in bowl.
Pour boiling water over; let soak until mushrooms soften, at least 45 minutes and up to 4 hours.
Strain the mixture, reserving 1-½ cups soaking liquid.
Cut stems from mushrooms and discard; thinly slice caps.
With food processor running, add ginger and garlic and finely chop.
Add cilantro, black bean sauce, 2 teaspoons peanut oil, and five-spice powder.
Process until paste forms, occasionally scraping down sides of work bowl.
Using sharp knife, cut 5 small shallow slits into each lamb shank, spacing apart;
Rub generous 1 Tablespoon black bean-cilantro paste into slits and all over surface of each shank. (Mushrooms and lamb shanks can be prepared 6 hours ahead.
Cover mushrooms, soaking liquid and shanks separately and chill.)
Preheat oven to 325F.
Cut six 18-inch squares of aluminum foil; place on work surface.
Place green onions and sliced mushroom caps in center of each foil square, dividing equally.
Heat remaining 4 teaspoons peanut oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add lamb shanks and cook until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch.
Place 1 lamb shank atop green onions and mushrooms on each foil square.
Pour reserved mushroom soaking liquid and Sherry into same skillet.
Boil until liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of skillet, about 10 minutes.
Spoon 2 tablespoons reduced liquid over each lamb shank, pulling up foil around shanks to prevent liquid from spilling out.
Enclose shanks completely in foil, twisting foil to seal; place on large rimmed baking sheet.
Bake lamb shanks until very tender and meat almost falls off bones, about 2 hours.
Open up foil packets; place each atop bowl of steamed rice, allowing diners to remove foil.

Available at Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of supermarkets. ** A blend of ground anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger; available in the spice section of most supermarkets.

Makes 6 servings.

About Rabbi Michael Sternfield

Michael Sternfield has been a Reform rabbi for 40 years, most recently serving at Chicago Sinai Congregation from 1995 until 2013. He served for 20 years as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, and briefly as the leader of the Durban, South Africa Progressive Jewish Congregation during South Africa’s historic transition to multi-racial democracy. He is now based in Los Angeles, California.