Sturdy, earthy lamb shanks are worthy vehicles for any number of seasonal flavors and preparations, whether a dark mix of mushrooms and red wine, or lighter, brighter citrus notes.

Personally, I like them boiled. Well, not boiled exactly, but simmered in a pot of water on the stove.

You may have been taught that lamb shanks must first be browned, then slowly braised — a fine way to cook them. But you can also get wonderful results skipping that first step. For instance, I have seen some recipes that call for a single lamb shank added to a long-cooked vegetable soup, just as you would with a ham hock or a few chicken legs to add meatiness.

But for something bigger — a hearty main course — I first season the shanks with salt and pepper, cover them with water in a large pot, toss in a few aromatics, and let it all simmer gently for an hour and a half or so, until the meat is tender. In the process, the water becomes a delicious broth, which is then used to make a sauce.

However, a whole, bone-in shank on a dinner plate can look gargantuan, even intimidating. So, once the shanks are tender, I like to pull the cooked meat off. The finished dish, thus tamed, can seem more civilized, less Stone Age. You can do this several hours before completing the dish, up to a day or two in advance.

Rather than a deep, wintry braise, I wanted something lighter for the beginning of spring. Opting for orange and honey, along with a few sweet spices, like clove, coriander and a touch of saffron, seemed right. The zest of one orange, peeled in wide strips, and a half-cup of orange juice proved to be plenty for an intense back note. A splash of white wine also supplied acidity.

A shower of freshly snipped herbs — dill, mint, parsley, basil — brightens the dish just before serving. A bouquet of butter-steamed spring vegetables (carrots and turnips for now, peas and asparagus tips soon) is a welcome accompaniment.

React to this story:


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.