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Apricot Ancho Lamb Shanks
The Washington Post Wine Club Apricot Ancho Lamb Shanks

Apricot Ancho Lamb Shanks

Braised lamb shanks are equally suitable for a simple at-home dinner or an elegant party. In this version, searing the shanks on a grill complements the smoky quality of the ancho chili peppers featured in the sauce, which is thickened with caramelized onions and apricots. Serve the shanks atop creamy white polenta and sauteed Swiss chard or spinach.
Wine Pairing
Wine Pairing
4 lamb shanks (3 to 4 pounds total)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
3 large dried ancho chili peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions (2 pounds total), cut in half, then cut into thin half-moons
1 quart low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
4 ounces (1/2 cup) dried apricots
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, make a pile of briquettes in the center of the grill and light them. After 20 minutes, they should be ready (no flames, and a layer of ash on the outside of the briquettes). For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

Season the shanks well with salt and pepper. Place on them on the grill and cook until nicely browned on both sides, turning them as often as needed. Transfer them to a Dutch oven.

(Alternatively, the shanks can be seared in a skillet on top of the stove. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers, then add the shanks and sear on both sides for several minutes, until golden brown.)

Char the ancho chili peppers on a gas stove by holding one pepper at a time with long tongs over a low open flame, or on an electric stove by placing the pepper directly on the burner. With either method, cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, turning frequently, until each pepper has puffed, softened and charred slightly. Discard the stems and seeds; cut each pepper into 3 or 4 pieces.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onions and stir lightly to coat; season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the onions' moisture has evaporated and the onions begin to sizzle and brown. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are deep-brown and caramelized; adjust the heat as needed so it does not burn.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Stir in the broth, using a wooden spoon to dislodge the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme, bay leaf, apricots and the charred ancho chili pepper pieces, stirring to combine.

Pour the mixture over the shanks in the pot. Cover and slow-roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning the shanks over halfway through the cooking, until the meat is fork-tender.

To serve, transfer the shanks to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Discard the bay leaf. Use a hand-held immersion (stick) blender to puree the sauce until smooth. (There will be about 4 cups of sauce.) Adjust the seasoning as needed. Ladle some of the sauce over the shanks; serve the rest on the side.

MAKE AHEAD: The shanks can be prepared a day or two in advance and reheated.

From Sourced columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn for The Washington Post.

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