Slow Cooker Braised Lamb Shanks

For a man-pleasing meal, start with lamb shanks and braise them in the slow cooker, filling the house with a savory welcome-home. The meat will practically fall off the bones and the sauce is silky smooth. Hello, long fall nights by the fire ...

Slow Cooker Braised Lamb Shanks with a silky-smooth sauce made from the braising liquid and vegetables.

So when was it, exactly, when I promised to cook my way through an entire lamb. A year ago? two? three? maybe even four? Acck, the time does fly. The freezer remains full of meat so I'm re-committing myself to that promise.

First up, lamb shanks.

So what are shanks, exactly? Well, a "shank" is the upper portion of a lamb's leg, from the knee up to the abdomen, say. Aha! Now that we know "where" the shank is, we also know that lamb shanks are bony with relatively little meat and that the meat is muscular. Once we know this, we know that the meat is relatively tough, and that means, slow cooking whether in a slow cooker / crockpot or in the oven.

CAUTION! BLENDERS & HOT LIQUIDS Always take great caution when blending hot liquids in a blender or a food processor. The safest thing? Let the liquid cool before processing. Next best, just work slowly and carefully, here's how I do it.

Work in batches, filling the blender no more than a quarter full each time.
For extra care, place a towel over the lid.
Hold the lid carefully with one hand while turning the blender on low speed with the other.
The pressure from inside the blender will try to lift the lid, some times you can lift your hand, just a bit, to release a small amount of pressure, almost like burping a baby.
The pressure gets stronger with each batch, I think that's because the blender container itself heats up from the hot liquid.
ALANNA's TIPS To avoid the stringiness that can happen in a sauce with celery, either pull off the celery's strings away before chopping or just omit them from the sauce entirely. No red wine? Use another liquid like apple cider or even more stock. If you have time, let the braising liquid cool in the refrigerator for a few hours before puréeing. This lets the fat rise to the top so that it can be easily removed and discarded. Is anyone noticing how specific my recipes are becoming about seasoning? My weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch puts me in the city's top restaurant kitchen about once a week, learning from top chefs. My latest revelation, this time from The Crossing, one of the city's fine-dining restaurants? The importance of seasoning a dish at every stage, just a little, rather than only at the end.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

SLOW COOKER BRAISED LAMB SHANKS

Real Food. Low Cal. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Gluten Free. Paleo. Primal.
Hands-on time: 20 minutes to start, 10 minutes to finish
Time to table: About 4 hours
Makes about 8 lamb shanks and six cups sauce
    LAMB SHANKS
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lamb shanks (about 8 shanks), visible fat removed, patted dry
  • Salt & pepper to taste
    VEGETABLES
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
    BRAISING LIQUID
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups lamb stock or beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Set slow cooker to "high".

LAMB SHANKS In a large skillet, heat olive oil until shimmery on medium high. Add lamb shanks and season with salt and pepper, then cook without moving until that side browns, then turn and repeat on all sides.

VEGETABLES While the lamb shanks brown, collect vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

BRAISING LIQUID Once the shanks are brown, arrange on top of the vegetables in a single layer, meatier side down, tilting if need be to fit the slow cooker. Add red wine to the hot skillet (it will sizzle!) and "deglaze" the pan by scraping up the "fond" (the brown bits of meat left in the bottom of the skillet). Add the stock, tomato paste, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over the vegetables and lamb shanks, the shank should be partially submerged.

SLOW COOKER on HIGH Cook on high for about 3 hours or until the meat easily releases from the bone but doesn't "fall off" the bone.

SLOW COOKER on LOW Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours (this is the typical range for slow cooker, I prefer the higher temperature).

SAUCE Lift shanks out of the slow cooker and set aside. Puree liquid and vegetables in a blender until smooth. IMPORTANT!! See safety instructions on the left, we don't want hot liquid spewing all over you and your kitchen!

TO SERVE On each plate, pool a few spoonfuls of sauce, top with a lamb shank, then drizzle with more sauce.

MAKE-AHEAD Refrigerate the shanks and the sauce separately until about a half hour before serving. Gently warm the sauce and shanks in a deep skillet, spooning sauce over the shanks every few minutes. Serve when hot.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving, assumes 8 servings, about 3 ounces of cooked lamb meat plus 3/4 cups sauce: 311 Calories; 17g Tot Fat; 7g Sat Fat; 88mg Cholesterol; 228mg Sodium; 9g Carb; 2g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 26g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 7 & WW Points Plus 7.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

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It is that time of the year, isn't it, for this kind of yumminess? We lovvvvvvvvvvvve lamb shanks. With the cold predicted for the weekend, I'm thinking this will be Sunday supper. Thanks for sharing!
 
Alanna, I just did lamb shanks last weekend - very similar to yours! I used the pressure cooker (about 30 minutes, as I recall) and added some soaked pink beans - Rather than blending the sauce, I reduced it a bit, and tossed with pasta - plus a garnish of chopped fresh herbs at table. Perfect for this time of year (we just woke out to our first frost this morning).
 
Denise ~ This is a perfect "fall Sunday supper" for sure! I'm curious, where do you buy lamp shanks in St. Louis? We still have lamb in the freezer from Farmgirl but she's not raising lambs for retail sale any longer ...

Kris ~ Oh those pressure cookers are "magic" -- aren't they?! So nice to hear from you! PS Pasta would have been great with the sauce but honestly, I was dying for mashed potatoes!
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna