Lamb Shank and a Pint Stew
I love lamb. I love it in almost every form of cooking and almost every cut. What amazes me is the number of people I've met or know that emphatically say they hate lamb. Lamb is one of those underrated and usually improperly cooked meats that has people in the love vs hate camps. Haters are usually a result of a bad experience on their first tasting. Over cooked or mutinous lamb will turn someone off of lamb for life. Alternatively, young, farm fresh and cooked as it should be lamb is a wonderful eating experience. Most cuts of lamb should be cooked and served at a rare to medium rare state. When making a stew or pie this is not possible. Many times it’s because of the cut and the amount of sinew, muscle and tendon attached to it. Shanks for example. These cuts always need to be cooked low and slow to allow for the breakdown and softening of all the connective tissues.
My Lamb Shank and a Pint Stew recipe is truly a no fuss no muss easy afternoon cook. Your total prep time will be about ½ hour depending on your kitchen skills. After that the oven does all the work and you’ll be a total hero when it’s done. Even the simplicity of serving it in the crock makes it easy and decadent.
A quick word about my recipes.
Unless it’s absolutely critical to the recipe, ingredient amounts have a forgiveness tolerance included. What I mean by that is, if I say 2 medium carrots, this could be 4 smaller or one big and 2 smaller. Honestly, don’t stress about it. One sprig of thyme vs 3 sprigs, again not the end of the world. Also, if there’s something in the ingredient list you absolutely despise or don’t have on hand ie. parsnips then omit it and just up the carrots and or potatoes.
I also write my recipes as if I’m teaching class. Sometimes explaining steps to the minutia. I do this because I want you to be successful and enjoy what I’ve created and not be disappointed with the end result.. Therefore, I strongly suggest you read the recipe in full before you begin. It really helps.
Here we go.
Gather all your ingredients and utensils on the counter ready to prep.
Preheat your oven to 400F/205C with the rack in the middle position.
Rag or cloth for wiping
If you have a pastry scraper it’s always a bonus for scooping up ingredients
large fry pan
Crock pot, Dutch oven or some stewing pot that is oven safe and has a lid.
If you do not have a large fry pan you may need to reduce the vegetables or fry off the ingredients in 2 batches.
Have a bowl or compost bucket available. When I teach cooking class and even in my kitchen the rule is work clean, efficient and ergonomically.
2-4 fresh lamb shanks.
4 strips thick cut bacon. Avoid sweet smoked or flavored like maple syrup bacon.
1-2 sausages such as Bratwursts or Oktoberfest
4 medium size red, white or yukon gold potatoes. Washed but not peeled. Use only waxy boiling potatoes not baking. You can also you choose to use mini potatoes. If so use about 8 - 10.
2 medium carrots, tipped and peeled
2 parsnips, tipped and peeled
1 medium cooking onion, peeled
2 stalks celery, tipped and washed
3 cloves fresh garlic peeled
8 or so cremini mushrooms, cleaned
8 cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tbsp. 30ml grainy mustard
2 Bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig tarragon (optional)
4 cups/900ml stock, beef or vegetable either or is up to you.
2 tsp/10ml each of course salt and pepper plus a sprinkle of each per lamb shank
1 can of Guinness or your favorite stout beer
Knob of butter and a splash of olive oil
Prepare all the ingredients below keeping them in separate piles or bowls.
Rinse and pat dry lamb shanks with paper towel then set aside on a plate
Cut carrots, celery, onions and parsnip in chunks. They don’t need to look pretty but must be small enough that two to three pieces would fit on a spoonful
Cut bacon into approx 1”x1” lardons, again you don’t need to be exact.
Cut mushrooms in half lengthwise
Cut tomatoes in half
Tie all the herb sprigs together with a piece of twine
Pour the beer into a glass as you will need some for cooking and some to consume while you’re cooking
Dice potatoes into roughly the same size as the carrot pieces *if using minis, cut into quarters. Do not cut the potatoes until much later. I’ll explain why further along.
Preheat frypan on high for about 30 seconds
Add butter and oil and wait for butter to melt. 15 seconds or so.
Add bacon and the sausage, move the bacon around and cook to a soft texture. The goal is to render some of the fat but not overcook the bacon. At the same time sear the sausages on all sides if possible. We are not cooking the sausages to finish at this time so, no concern that they're raw in the centre.
Slide the pan off the heat and remove the sausages and the bacon from the pan but, retain the fat in the pan.
Once the sausages have cooled slice them into ½”/13mm thick coins and set aside
Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on each shank and place them into the pan. Slide back over the heat. The goal here is to sear and caramelize the shanks on all sides by rotating them with a set of tongs. Slide the pan on and off the heat or lower the heat to Med/high if it gets too hot. Remember the goal is to sear and not cook the lamb.
Once the shanks are seared, remove them from the pan and set aside. It doesn’t matter if they cool down. Immediately add the onions, carrots, parsnips, celery, mushrooms and tomatoes to the pan. Add the salt and pepper and stir to mix with a wooden spoon.
This is important. Don’t play with the food!! Move it around so it doesn’t burn but not too much so it doesn’t get a chance to brown. All we want to achieve is a bit of colour on the vegetables no more. This should take about 1-2 minutes in total.
Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer all the vegetable plus any fat that is in the pan to whatever roasting vessel you’ll be using.
Add the bacon, sausage coins, garlic, bay leaves and gently mix in with the vegetables
Lay the lamb shanks on top of the veg mixture
Place the herb bundle in between the shanks
Back to the frying pan…
Place the frypan back on to a med/high heat
Crack open the beer and pour in approx. 1 cup’s worth. Add the grainy mustard and using a wooden spoon scrape and loosen all the tasty bits and flavour morsels that are stuck to the pan
Once the liquid has reduced by about half, this takes less than a minute, pour it over the lamb shanks
The remaining beer is for personal consumption should there be any left.
Back to the roasting pan…
Add 2/3rds (3 cups/700ml) of the stock. Be careful not to pour it over the lamb
Put the lid on the pan and slide into the oven. Set a timer for 40 minutes
About the potatoes
The goal is to have the potatoes as firm as possible and not become mushy or fall apart. To achieve this, you will only need approx. 30 minutes of stewing time. Therefore you will only add them in the last half hour of oven time.
At the 40 minute mark
Carefully remove the lid to the roasting pan and flip the shanks to expose the underside. Check the stock level and add if necessary. Return the lid to cover, slide the pan back in and lower the temperature of the oven to 300F/150C. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
20 minutes later...
Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Close the oven door to maintain oven temp. Remove the lid to the pan and add the potatoes. Gently mix them in with the veg. You can remove or move the lamb if necessary but be cautious not to let the meat come off the bone. Replace the lamb and the lid and slide it back into the oven. Set a timer for 30 minutes.
20 minutes later again…
With 10 minutes remaining on the timer, remove the lid and poke the potatoes to check for doneness. They should be firm but not mushy or crumbling apart.
Should the potatoes still be undercooked, replace the lid and continue to roast for the remaining 10 minutes.
If they are on point, slide the roasting pan without the lid back into the oven. Turn off the heat and set a timer for the final 10 minutes.
If the potatoes were underdone, follow the above step once they achieve doneness.
You are almost done…
Your stew is now done and almost ready to be enjoyed.
Before serving, remove the herb bundle and the bay leaves. Always, always make sure you remove as many bay leaves as you added at the start.
At this point you can plate the stew individually, transfer it to a serving platter or my choice, which is to place the roasting pan in the centre of the table to be offered family style. I don’t usually recommend having salt and pepper at the table but in this case taste and seasoning is subjective and therefore I would offer additional coarse salt and coarse pepper for those who need or want it.
A side note on the beer.
As you may have noticed very little of the Guinness is used in the stew. The amount used is completely up to you. A whole can requires a little more reduction in the pan and adds a stronger flavor. On the other hand omitting the Guinness altogether is fine as well. Use a cup or so of the stock, white wine or any other beer you may prefer to deglaze the pan. I leave this totally up to you. There Are No Hard Rules!
Reheating. This stew keeps well and can be reheated as a leftover meal (should any be left)
I’m not a huge fan of microwaving to reheat. I like to reheat this dish in a covered pan over medium heat. Stirring occasionally. Add a little stock at the beginning ensuring you don’t burn it. Bring it to a light boil for 3 to 5 minutes and you’re good to go.
Despite the stew having been made with beer my reco is a hardy, Jammy full bodied red wine. A big Cab or Rioja or Zin are usually a good bet.
Cheers and Enjoy,