Saturday, February 20, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks and the 17th century Château de Barbentane in Provence

We like lamb shanks, but they tend to be quite rich and fatty so we don’t serve them often. When I saw this recipe on Stacey’s Snacks, she made it look so tempting that I decided to give it another chance. I always look forward to checking my email each morning, because it always has a post from Stacey containing the tasty food she’s prepared the previous night. She served the lamb shanks at a dinner party and said it was great because it was so much less expensive than Ossobuco for a crowd. I like veal shanks too and agree with Stacey. I served them with polenta rounds that I browned at the last minute.

Since experience had taught us that the lamb shanks are too fatty for our taste, we refrigerated them overnight and skimmed off of the fat layer the next day. It turned out to be a good idea, because it helped to reduce the fat. I made very few other changes and my notes are in parenthesis below. Primarily I believe that if you add the herbs to the end of browning the vegetables and cook for a few more minutes, that brings out the essence of the herbs rather than just adding them to the liquids. I also thickened the sauce with a beurre manie of butter and flour.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary
Adapted from Stacey’s Snacks via All Recipes

6 meaty lamb shanks
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
10 cloves garlic, minced
5 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 (750 ml) bottle red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
1 (10.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth

Sprinkle the shanks with kosher salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, (Don’t crowd the skillet or they’ll steam rather than brown), brown the shanks on all sides, about 8 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

Add the onions and carrots to pot and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook a minute or two more. (I always like to incorporate the chopped herbs with the onions at the end of browning them, because I think it brings out their flavors instead of just throwing them in with the liquids.)

Stir in the wine, tomatoes, chicken broth and beef broth. (Break up the tomatoes with a large spoon.) Return the shanks to pot, pressing down to submerge. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover, and simmer until meat is tender, about two and a half hours.

Lamb shanks can be fatty, so I removed the pot from the heat, let it cool and refrigerated it overnight. The next day before you’re ready to serve them, scrape off all of the accumulated fat at the top and discard. Heat the pot and bring to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes longer. Transfer the shanks to a platter and place in a warm oven. Boil the juices until they thicken, about 15 minutes. Serves six.

If your sauce is not thick enough (ours wasn’t), make a beurre manie by blending 3 T flour with 2 T softened butter to make a paste. Off heat, whisk in the beurre manie, then simmer the sauce for 2 minutes as it thickens. Spoon over the shanks and serve.

Château de Barbentane 

While we were in Provence, we toured the impressive 17th century Château de Barbentane, 10 km south of Avignon, and were able to see what it was like to live in such a grand château centuries ago. Upon closer inspection, the château and the grounds are showing signs of wear and tear, but if I’d survived the French revolution as Barbentane did, I suspect I would be a bit tattered myself. It must be a huge expense to maintain such a massive château, even if you are a Marquis.

Here’s the château’s history according to Provence Web, “The construction of the Château de Barbentane was started in 1674 by Paul François de Barbentane, but it was only completed at the end of the 18th century. This château is the home of the Marquis de Barbentane. It is to Joseph Pierre Balthazar de Puget, who was Marquis de Barbentane and Louis XV’s ambassador to Florence, that the splendid reception rooms owe their sumptuous decoration. They are ornamented with plasterwork and Carrare marble which show off the château’s Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture to great advantage. Having miraculously survived the 1789 French Revolution, the house is still inhabited today by the Marquis de Barbentane.


  1. Sam, this is so 'our kind of meal.' I will admit, we are having lamb shanks tomorrow, but they are purchased frozen and prepared from Costco. They are very good, but we have avoided making our own because of the 'work' involved. Now, you have me enthused to try from scratch. A great recipe. Thanks.

    We have not seen this chateau. There are so many, it is hard to decide which one.

  2. This looks wonderful -- I will put lamb shanks on my grocery list!

  3. Mary had a little lamb...
    And so did Sam;)

    Odd thing to notice but I just thought about the fact that "shank" always means something bad in sports (golf, soccer, field goals) but something so good in food. ;)

    Oh...and quit posting pictures of my house on your blog (ha ha ha).

    Great post, I always learn something here.

  4. I will do lamb shanks a few times each winter - I am going to try your method of doing them the night before (with your recipe) - it's like a knock on the head, "Why didn't I think of that?" Next weekend - something to look forward to. And I always love a glimpse at Provence. Always. I love the way you dole them out and I am lapping it up!

  5. wow I wish I could come over for dinner get yourself some lovely flowers from me he he lol Rebecca

  6. I have never had lamb shanks, and they look incredible. Your picture is great, can you give me garnishing lessons, please.

  7. Quelles richesses~ The food and the Château~ I will remember both ..

  8. I'm busy laughing at Chris' comment:D

    Your plating is gorgeous and the lamb shanks look outstanding.

    I definitely agree with you about adding the herbs to the aromatics and/or fat. I always hear chefs say that adding them to the fat or aromatics helps to deliver the flavor.

  9. Lamb is on our menu for company tonight, so I have to think about what I am going to do. Yours looks great, and your right, how funny lamb is so fatty like that, but it does help flavor so many cuts of meat!

  10. Those lamb shanks look absolutely fabulous! I can't wait to try them:) Also what a beautiful Chateau - looks like a beautiful day you were there as well.

  11. That looks fantastic! I love lamb shanks. Can't believe I've never seen a picture of this chateau before even though I've been so close to it.

  12. This really is pure simplicity, and the best food you can possibly prepare. It looks wonderful, Sam. While I'm anxious for the winter to be over, I feel like I really haven't done enough braising this season. It's such a good company strategy to make it the day before. You can skim the fat (as you did) but I think the flavors really come togehter over night.

  13. I grew up with sheep and goats and I love the flavor and the fat - this dish looks so well done - beautifully put together! I agree with TW letting it sit overnight was a genius idea on all levels. I think I will follow along and comment after TW from now on - he expresses me so perfectly.

  14. Oh my Sam, that looks so delicious. I love dishes like this ~ full of flavor and a satisfying richness to the palate.

    The photograph of the Chateau is really beautiful. It is always fun to tour places like that and see how people lived years ago.

    Many thanks...

  15. French can be simplicity itself and not the complicated dishes we associate with it.

  16. OH my... I'm drooling now just looking at how delicious this lamb dish!

  17. Hi Sam,
    How nice to see the lamb shanks posted this a.m.
    Beautifully presented with the polenta rounds.
    I served them with mashed cauliflower for a change, but my favorite way is over polenta.
    Thanks for the mention!
    Happy Sunday!

  18. Looks good-sounds like refrigerating them over night was a great idea.

  19. Sam,
    Gorgeous pictures! I bet your house smelled awesome!

  20. Lamb shanks are reserved for special meals in our house. This looks like a wonderfully savory dish. I like your tip of adding herbs at the end of browning vegetables.

  21. I love braising! It's like baking but your cooking instead.

    Lovely dish and can you believe that I've never made Lamb shanks!

  22. This is a delicious lamb shank recipe! I agree that an overnight skimof the fat makes for a more enjoyable and healthy dish.

    I like your polenta rounds Sam..wonderful presentation!

  23. I like lamb shanks but they are not offered in our supermarket often. The last time I ate lamb shanks was in the oldest restaurant in Ohio called The Golden Lamb. Look at their site, it gives their history and even their lamb shank recipe. It was opened in 1803. Here is the site: Your recipe looks good. I like to make mine the Armenian way. Thanks for coming to my blog. We spent 4 days in Palm Beach, so I’ll have 3 more posts on it in the future.

  24. A wonderful shank recipe and very appropriate to your chateau! GREG

  25. Delicious recipe and I am now so curious to visit Chateau Barbentane...dare I admit Sam I have never been! Sometimes what is so close is so far...xv

  26. This is such a fabulous meal. I really like the idea of refrigerating over night to skim the top layer of fat-that really helps.

  27. So lovely, and the Chateau is not bad either ;) ~LeslieMichele

  28. The lamb shanks are so gorgeous and sound really wonderful with rosemary flavor! We haven't had lamb shanks in quite some time and need to make them again very soon!

  29. We love lamb shanks! Sometimes when I'm in a hurry, I just bake them for an hour with salt and pepper. The fat ends up in the bottom of the pan.

    When I have more time, I make a recipe out of the (really) old Gourmet cookbook...braised in the oven in red wine, herbs and veggies until it's falling off the bone.
    Your recipe looks similar except mine does not use tomatoes. Haven't made this for my family for a long time. Thanks for the reminder!

  30. I wish my husband was a fan of lamb as I am because I would really like to try this. Refrigerating the shanks over night for the fat to congeel is a terrific idea, I bet it also intensified the flavors.

  31. Sam, your lam shank sure looks delicious...honestly I haven't cooked lamb...after seeing yours, I am very tempted to try :-)

  32. Lamb is one thing I have never cooked. I wonder if my girls even like (or know if they like) lamb. I really do need to give it a try and what a great recipe for me to start with :)

  33. Sam This is a delicious and beautiful post. I never fail to enjoy each visit.

  34. A beautiful presentation, Sam. Your lamb shanks look so delicious. This recipe is similar to one my mother used to prepare and I'm looking forward to trying it.

  35. What a lovely recipe, Sam. Your photos are outstanding. We are a family of lamb lovers and as far as I'm concerned you can never have too many recipes for its preparation. Have a lovely day...Mary

  36. Sam, this looks and sounds delicious. I always skim the fat off of lamp shanks, too.

    I am just back to work this week. It had been so long since I felt like visiting, and I missed everyone.

  37. This sounds absolutely delicious. Great idea to skim the extra fat off the dish!

  38. I have yet to look for lamb shanks in France but I'm dying to make them! This is an extraordinary and delicious-looking dish, perfect for the chilly winter.

  39. This looks so amazing, lamb is my most favorite meat, even thoguh I try to stay away form meat too mcuch. Good job, I am all drooly here :-)

  40. Sam, This is my kind of meal! I love lamb shanks. This recipe looks divine!
    So glad I found your blog!
    Have a nice weekend!
    Tattered or not the Chateau is lovely!

  41. You're bringing back memories of Paris...


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