This recipe is adapted from The PlumpJack Cookbook by Jeff Morgan (Rodale Press, 2006), and when it appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Jeff Morgan noted, “This copious, rustic dish is topped with an elegant, fresh mint sauce. The mint is paired with a single tablespoon of intense pomegranate molasses, which can be found on the syrup shelf of many supermarkets. Ask your butcher to ‘crack’ the lamb shanks, which allows them to cook a little faster than they would otherwise. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.”
An Australian Shiraz has the richness to stand up to this traditional braise. Many even have a hint of mint to match the gremolata; recommended producers include Glaetzer, Penfolds and Cape Mentelle.
For the lamb shanks
4 lamb shanks, cracked (see above)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 to 5 cups dry red wine
For the gremolata
Extra virgin olive oil as needed, plus 1/2 cup
3 medium to large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
10 to 12 sprigs fresh mint
4 flat-leafed parsley sprigs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
To make the lamb shanks: Trim the excess fat from the lamb shanks and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or large, ovenproof pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat. Sear the lamb shanks on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Add 4 cups of the wine, stirring to break up any solids that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Raise the heat to high and return the shanks to the pot. Add more wine, if necessary, to cover most of the shanks with liquid. When the wine begins to boil, cover the pot, and place it in the oven. Cook until the lamb shanks are very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
To make the gremolata: In a saucepan, pour enough olive oil over the garlic cloves to cover them completely. Heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Reserve the garlic. (You can save the garlic-infused oil for garnish or cooking; store in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.)
Place the garlic cloves with the pomegranate molasses, mint, parsley, and the remaining 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil in a blender and pulse to blend well. Reserve at room temperature until ready to use.
To serve, arrange a lamb shank on each plate and top it with a spoonful or two of the gremolata. Spoon pan juices from the cooked lamb onto each plate as well. Serve at once.