There's no good way to say non-gamey, but anyone who has eaten lamb regularly knows what that term describes. To wit, chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman of East Memphis's highly praised Hog & Hominy have a secret. They work with a South African breed of lamb called dorpor. This breed lacks the lanoline from the wool that can create an unappetizingly gamey taste. But even if you can't find dorper lamb (Ticer and Hudman get theirs from Newman Farm in the southern Ozarks), you can follow these chefs' advice for making better braised dishes. For example, lift the lid 30 minutes before you're done for better color; cook meat low and slow so that it falls off the bone; and use different stocks as well as different meats, and even braise root vegetables alone. "For example, you may use pork stock instead of chicken stock to make different [braised] dishes surprisingly complementary," says Ticer. Before you start experimenting by adding chorizo spices or dried apricots, why not stick with this back-to-basics lamb recipe, get the best non-gamey lamb you can, and use actual lamb stock with some good wine. Chefs and diners have yet to meet rich meat that doesn't like a big red.
- 4 lamb shanks, 8–10 oz each
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups (16 fl oz) dry red wine
- 1 head garlic, split crosswise
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 1 can (16 oz) whole tomatoes
- 1 qt lamb stock
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) olive oil
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Season the lamb shanks all over with salt and pepper.
Warm a large Dutch oven over high heat and add the olive oil.
Add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Then, transfer the shanks to a plate.
Add the celery, onion, and carrot to the pot along with the tomato paste and sauté until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the wine and cook until it is nearly evaporated. Return the lamb shank to the pan along with the garlic, thyme, parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, peppercorns, olives, and tomatoes.
Add the stock; it should almost cover the meat. Cover the pot and braise in the oven until the lamb is fork tender, about 3 hours.
After one and a half hours, uncover the pot and rotate the pot in the oven to ensure even cooking.
Remove the lamb shanks, herbs, bay leaves, and garlic head.
Blend the braising liquid.
To serve, add the lamb shanks back to the blended braising jus.