4 lamb shanks, rinsed and patted dry
neutral oil for searing (like Grapeseed or canola), about 2-3 tablespoons
1½ cups yellow onion, small diced
½ cup celery, small diced
½ cup carrots, small diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 star anise
1 or 2 allspice berries
1 or 2 whole cardamom pods
1½ cups port wine
1½ cups red wine
½ cup canned chopped Italian plum tomatoes
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
rind of 1 orange, more if needed
1 quart chicken stock
For the topping:
1 cup of your favorite dried fruit, chopped - figs, prunes, apricots and cherries all work well
chopped Italian parsley
Preheat your oven to 375˚F. Season the lamb shanks heavily with salt and pepper. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven, sear the lamb shanks on all sides until deep golden brown. Remove to a tray. If the pan seems dry, add a little more oil. Add the onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it’s a dark red, stirring to evenly coat the vegetables. Add the anchovy paste, port and red wine, bring to a simmer and reduce by ¾ of the way.
While the wine reduces, tie the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, clove, star anise, allspice berries and whole cardamom pods together in a bundle of cheesecloth. If you don’t have cheese cloth you can surround them in the thyme and rosemary springs and tie with butcher’s twine, or just throw them into the pot. Add the anchovy paste, chopped tomatoes, herbs and orange rind to the pot. Return the lamb and any juices from the tray into the pot. Add enough chicken stock to cover the lamb about three quarters of the way up. Cover the pot and cook the lamb until tender, about 2½ hours. The meat should easily release from the bone.
Once the lamb finishes cooking, taste the sauce for seasoning. If there is a lot of fat floating on top, skim off some with a spoon. If you want a thicker sauce, remove the lamb and reduce until nappe. Serve the lamb with its sauce topped with the dried fruit mixture.
Prepare the dried fruit topping:
Toss whatever dried fruit you’re using in a bowl with a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar and chopped parsley. Serve over the braised lamb.