There’s no better method than braising to cozy up the kitchen and get the house smelling delicious. And what’s especially nice about this technique is that dinner takes care of itself in the oven while I relax in the other room with a book. I love that.
Start this the night before – but no big deal! All you have to do is season the lamb, and let it sit in the refrigerator. This will make two generous portions – enough to share with a few little ones.
2 meaty lamb shanks (ask for cuts from the hind legs – they’re meatier than the forelegs)
1 tablespoon each ground cumin, coriander and curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black peppercorns
1 small minced garlic clove
5 tablespoons olive oil, give or take
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Toasted Almond Couscous:
1 cup couscous
2 cups chicken broth or water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
4 chopped green onions
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons softened butter
Trim off excess fat from the lamb and place in a shallow baking dish. Make a paste by combining the spices, salt, pepper, garlic and 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Smear all over the lamb; cover the dish and refrigerate overnight (or do this in the morning and chill for 6 hours).
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep saute pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the lamb all over, about 5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and wipe the pot clean of any blackened spices.
Add the remaining oil, carrot, onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook until softened and lightly golden brown, stirring once in a while. Stir in the tomato paste and flour and cook for one minute before adding the wine. Let the wine bubble away to about 2 tablespoons, then return the lamb to the pan. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a sheet of parchment paper or foil, put a lid on it, and transfer the whole thing to the oven.
Cook 1 hour; turn the shanks over, replace the cover and continue cooking for another hour, or until the meat is falling off the bone. Remove the lamb to a covered plate. Strain the contents of the pot into a small saucepan, straining any fat that rises to the surface. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, and reduce to about 3/4 cup. Taste it for seasoning.
About 30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, make the couscous:
Heat a 10-inch non stick skillet over medium-high heat. Put the couscous in the pan and toast until golden brown, shaking or stirring the pan occasionally. Add the chicken stock, salt and apricots. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and cover until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in the green onions, almonds and butter.
Serve the lamb on top of the couscous, with some warm sauce spooned over.