These foil-baked lamb shanks are a great way to turn a fairly humble and inexpensive piece of meat into a luscious feast fit for a king.
They also make the most amazing, cold-weather carnivore comfort food.
Now, hear me out.
Normally, I braise lamb shanks, like a lot of folks do.
Lamb shanks are a surly cut of meat: Tough as can be. You need to slow cook them to coax out marvelous flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
With this foil-baked lamb shank recipe, you slow roast them in the oven, which renders the meat preposterously tender.
It also brings lots of visual drama to your dinner table if you’re doing a fancier affair.
Everyone gets their own shank, with its gloriously browned bone. (Re-enacting scenes from Game of Thrones, optional.)
Serve each guest their own lamb shank, nestled on a bed of Basmati rice, creamy mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, or cous cous.
To make these foil-baked lamb shanks, first you slather them in a paste made from good bacon, fresh rosemary, and salty black olives.
(Sidebar: This is actually a GREAT paste to use on chicken and pork, as well.)
Then, you wrap them up in little foil sleeping bags, drench them in dry white wine, and slow roast them in the oven til they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
The whole thing is takes almost no active cooking time and is ridiculously easy.
How to buy lamb shanks
When you buy lamb shanks, look for hefty, meaty shanks with more meat than fat.
The meat itself should be a darker red (darker than pork, lighter than a sirloin), and the fat should be white and creamy (not tinted in any way, like yellow or greenish).
The bone should be a sparkly, fairly even white color, never dull or brown.
If you have a good butcher and haven’t bought lamb shanks before, head there and talk to them.
They’ll steer you to the best shanks.
Alrighty, enough yapping. To the ovens!
This recipe serves 2, but it’s super easy to scale up to feed a crowd (or down, if you’re in the mood for a decadent solo dinner).
How many you can make at a time really depends on how many you can fit in your oven.
Foil Baked Lamb Shanks
3 slices bacon
2 Tbls. fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic
5 oil-cured black olives, pitted
2 bone-in lamb shanks
2 Tbls. olive oil
Good, dry white wine (the kind you would drink)
Fresh chives or parsley, for garnish
Make your flavor rub
Grab your bacon. I used black forest bacon from Whole Foods, but any kind will work!
Put the bacon, rosemary, garlic, olives in the bowl of your food processor.
Pulse and scrape the bowl down until it’s been reduced to a thick paste.
If you don’t have a food processor or don’t want to bother, you could do this with a good knife on a cutting board, it would just take a bit of time to get it to a paste-y consistency.
Apply the rub to your lamb shanks
Cut a few small slits in your lamb shanks (poke a paring knife maybe 1/4 inch in in a few places).
Slather your lambs shanks with your rub, pushing some of it down into each slit you cut.
This is a greasy job, so if you don’t like getting your hands messy, slip on some gloves if you have ’em handy.
Your goal is to coat the lamb shanks as best and as evenly as you can. It’s an imprecise situation, as you can see:
Sear your lamb shanks
Preheat your oven to 325-degrees F.
Put the olive oil in a large pan. Heat it on the stove on medium high.
Add the lamb shanks and sear quickly on all sides to start to develop a crust and build flavor.
Keep a good eye on them. The idea is to brown them but not burn.
Wrap your lamb shanks in foil
Now that you’ve seared your lamb shanks, wrap them up!
Grab some aluminum foil.
You want the foil big enough so that you can encase the meaty part of the shank, and expose the bone so it browns nicely (which makes a great table presentation).
It kind of looks like you’re putting little booties on them.
Set the lamb shanks in an oven-safe baking dish.
You want to use one that’s tall enough to keep them propped upright.
Deglaze your pan
So the pan that you seared the lamb shanks in? See all those brown bits?
That’s pure flavor!
Set the pan back on the stove over medium high heat.
Add a little white wine (maybe 1/4 – 1/2 cup) and stir vigorously, scraping the bottom of the pan to release all those flavorful brown bits.
You’ll wind up with a super fragrant sauce.
Spoon the sauce over the lamb shanks
Spoon the sauce into the foil wrapped lamb shanks, dividing it fairly evenly.
This will add extra flavor as they slow roast.
Slow roast your foil wrapped lamb shanks
Pop your pan into your preheated, 325-degree F oven.
Roast for about 2 hours.
They’re done when the meat is tender enough to pull off the bone with a fork and the top of the bone is nicely browned.
If you roll with a meat thermometer, they’re done when they reach an internal temperature of at least 145-degrees F (this will give you medium rare, which is really too rare for most folks for a lamb shank. Most folks like these falling off the bone, but use your discretion).
Serve and enjoy your foil wrapped lamb shanks!
When they’re done, unwrap and plate them up.