Mediterranean Lamb Shanks With Cannellini Beans and Spring Leeks
For the lamb
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large dutch oven on medium-high. With salt and pepper to taste, season the lamb shanks, then dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess. Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, then the lamb shanks and sear them evenly on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes per batch.
Once the meat has finished searing, remove to a paper towel-lined plate, making sure to remove any bits of black charring from the Dutch oven.
Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add the vegetables – onions, carrots, celery, and sweat them until they’ve released their juices and are just soft. Add garlic and continue to sauté until the aroma is released. Stir in the cayenne and rosemary.
Add the tomato paste and cook the whole mixture briefly to concentrate the flavors.
Deglaze the vegetables with the red wine, then add orange juice and simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot, until all is incorporated. Add 2-3 cups broth as needed.
Place the lamb back into the Dutch oven along with any accumulated juices, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover with the lid, and place into your preheated oven, braising the lamb for 2.5 hrs.
Remove the lid, add the olives, and cook uncovered for another 15-30 minutes as the juice reduces to the desired consistency.
For the beans
Starting after you’ve put the lamb in the oven, place the beans in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, add bay leaf and kombu (which improves digestibility and enhances flavor) and simmer for 1 ½ or 2 hours adding more water as necessary. Add vinegar when the beans are ¾ way through the cooking process. (Beans can be cooked a day ahead.)
Meanwhile, warm an additional 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large pan at medium-low heat, add the chopped leeks. Sauté gently until leeks are creamy and soft. If they begin to color, add water as needed and continue to sauté until tender.
When the beans are soft, drain, and add to the leeks. Stir the mixture together gently. Add red pepper flakes, sea salt and pepper to taste.
To plate family style
Place the bean mixture onto a large serving platter to make a bed for the lamb. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. With tongs, transfer the lamb onto the beans and serve.
In Your Glass
Lamb provides challenges for some when it comes to choosing a wine. But we always give a nod to what we most feel like drinking – no ‘rules’ allowed – and that keeps it fun and stress free! With a dish with these flavors I’ll usually lean toward something earthy and savory with ripe, full-bodied fruit. A Spanish Tempranillo has been the winner some evenings. On others we might go with either a Shafer Merlot or Cabernet. Each will bring its own combination of richness and lush flavors that make this lamb dish truly memorable.