Braising, or cooking with moist heat after browning, is a great way to infuse flavor and tenderize tougher cuts of meat. And there is plenty of flavor to be found in the interplay of rosemary, spice powder and assertive Zin in this recipe from Chef Bob Engel of Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc.
Wine recommendation: Since two cups of Zin are used in the recipe, there is only one ideal choice to sip with this hearty dish: A dry, balanced Zinfandel such as Optima 2003 Zinfandel, Quivira 2002 Wine Creek Ranch Zinfandel, or Sausal 2002 Century Vines Zinfandel.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
4 lamb shanks
4 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 2-1/2 tablespoons)
2 large shallots, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups Zinfandel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Trumpet Royale mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
Combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the five-spice powder into a paste and rub over lamb shanks. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator and marinate overnight or for several hours.
In a large skillet, heat peanut or grapeseed oil until almost smoking. Place the lamb shanks in the oil and brown, turning as needed. When shanks are browned, transfer them to an ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven. Lower heat, add garlic and shallots to the skillet and sauté until limp. Add canned tomatoes, Zinfandel, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and then remove from heat and pour around lamb shanks. Cover tightly.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake lamb shanks in oven for two hours. Check occasionally and stir in a half-cup of water at a time, as necessary to keep sauce moist.
Meantime, slice, quarter or halve mushrooms, depending on their size. Sauté mushrooms in the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat, adding rosemary, and cook for five minutes or until tender. Add mushrooms to the sauce around the lamb shanks. Continue braising for an additional 30 minutes or until lamb is very tender.
Serve with couscous or soft polenta.