Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel and Trahanas


Photograph by T. Brodnax

Pano Karatassos, executive chef at Kyma, demonstrated his recipe for braised lamb shanks with fennel at the Morningside Farmers Market on October 29. If you can’t find trahanas—a tangy Greek pasta made with goat-milk yogurt—in your nearby Middle Eastern grocery store, then substitute couscous and add an extra splash of lemon juice.

For the lamb shanks:
2 bone-in lamb shanks, 12 to 14 ounces each
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons blended oil (70 percent canola, 30 percent olive) or vegetable oil
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion (1 large)
1 cup sliced fennel
8 cloves garlic, sliced
12 thyme sprigs
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth

For the tomato compote:
2 cups tomato puree*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Coarse salt
Freshly ground white pepper
*To make tomato puree, run a 28-ounce can of low-sodium crushed tomatoes through the food processor, and then strain.

For the trahanas:
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or braising liquid from shanks
1 cup trahana pasta
1 cup tomato compote, see recipe above
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon julienned Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon diced fennel, blanced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

To prepare the shanks:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously season the lamb shanks with salt and white pepper. Add the oil to a Dutch oven (or other suitable pan for braising) over medium-high heat. Add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Return the Dutch oven to medium heat. Add the butter and thyme sprigs. When the butter melts, baste the shanks with some of the butter.

2. To the Dutch oven, add the onion, fennel, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Return the shanks to the Dutch oven and add the broth. Cover with parchment paper and the lid, or cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place in the oven.

3. Cook until the meat is extremely tender—you will be able to easily slide a cake tester in and out of the meat—about 4 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and, if desired, strain off the braising liquid for cooking the pasta. (Can be prepared 4 hours in advance. Reheat the shanks and braising liquid until meat is completely tender again before continuing with recipe.)

To prepare the tomato compote:
4. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, reduce the tomato puree by half.

5. Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and thyme, and cook until caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Discard the thyme leaves. Stir the shallots and oil into the reduced tomato puree. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

To prepare the trahanas:
7. Bring 2 1/2 cups stock or braising liquid to a boil and add the pasta. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring every 2 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

8. Add the tomato compote, olive oil, lemon juice, olives, fennel, chives, fennel fronds, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

9. To serve, spoon half of the pasta onto each plate and top with a lamb shank.

Serves 2