Easter Sunday has always been special in my household growing up. While we were sleeping, our parents would sneakily deliver Easter baskets overflowing with peeps, chocolate bunnies, and an abundance of Cadbury eggs. Waking up at 5 AM we would scarf as much chocolate down before heading to sunrise service, belly-ache and all.
After church it was custom to always have a big Easter lunch at home with family. I can’t remember a year that we’ve ever not had lamb on our menu. Easter was pretty much the only time we would have lamb except on occasion, so it was always such a treat. You can’t forget about the mint jelly! I don’t know why the combination of mint and lamb is so good, but it’s perfect together.
For the past two years living in Portland, I’ve tried to make Easter feel as much like home as possible, so lamb is most definitely going to be on our menu this year. I had never had lamb shanks until Thomas first made it for me and I am hooked! Growing up we always had a roasted leg of lamb, which is to die for, but I love how slow-braised shanks fall off the bone and literally the meat just melts in your mouth. For special occasions we always go to Phil’s Uptown Meat Market off of Burnside and 23rd. Their meat is always great and sourced by local farmer’s and rancher’s.
These shanks are braised in a dutch oven in beef stock, red wine, and lots of herbs and other goodies. Once the meat is super tender, we take the shanks out and reduce the liquid into a mind-blowing sauce. No joke, you’ll want to drench EVERYTHING in it.
An ode to my beloved mint jelly, we also made a fresh basil mint pesto. It was the perfect pop of color and complimented the lamb perfectly. I would recommend making a double batch of pesto since it keeps well in the fridge and is ahmazzinggg on eggs in the morning.
Happy egg hunting, peep snacking, and lamb eating friends!
Lamb Shanks with Basil Mint Pesto
-lamb shanks (1 for each person)
– 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
– 4 carrots, sliced
– 6 garlic cloves, minced
– a few springs of thyme
– 1 tablespoon of beef base ( we used Better than Buillon)
– 3/4 bottle of red wine
– 2 cloves garlic
– 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
– 1 cup fresh basil leaves
– 1 cup fresh mint leaves
– 3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
– A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– fingerling potatoes
– honey roasted mini carrots
What to do
1) In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. Once hot, sear the lamb shanks on all sides and then remove from heat.
2) In a large dutch oven, sauté chopped onions and carrots in a little olive oil over medium high heat until they start to soften about 5 minutes. Add in the 6 minced garlic cloves and sauté another minute or two until fragrant. Then add the springs of thyme and place the seared lamb shanks on top.
3) Put in a tablespoon of beef base and then fill the dutch oven with 3/4 of a bottle of red wine and water until the lamb shanks are submerged.
4) Bring to a boil and then turn down to a medium-low simmer and cook until the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone, about 3 1/2 hours.
5) While the meat is cooking you can make the pesto. In a hot skilled with a drizzle of oil, toast the pine nuts until golden brown and season with salt and pepper. Add the pine nuts and garlic to a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add half of the herbs and chop for 30 seconds, then add the rest of the herbs and chop. Add in the Parmesan and salt and pepper, pulse briefly until combined. While machine is running, squeeze in the lemon juice and slowly add the oil in a steady stream and process to desired thickness. Depending on how basil-y or mint-y you want to have your pesto, adjust the quantities accordingly.
6) At the 3 hour mark when the shanks only have about 1/2 hour left to cook, roast the potatoes and carrots. Place the potatoes whole on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and are tender when pierced with a fork.
7) For the mini carrots, we skimmed a couple tablespoons of the lamb fat from the top while the shanks were cooking and drizzled all over the carrots (super healthy I know). Season with salt and pepper and roast until slightly golden and tender. Drizzle with honey after the are out of the oven.
8) Once the meat is very tender, remove the shanks and set in a warm place. Crank the heat up to high and let the liquid reduce in the dutch oven until desired thickness. Hint: if you want to thicken it a little more you can mix a tablespoon of cornstarch in about a tablespoon of water and add to the sauce. Continue boiling the sauce for a 5-10 minutes after you put in the cornstarch.
9) Plate your dish with the potatoes, carrots, and the shank. Give yourself a generous helping of the sauce all over the shank and top with a little of the pesto.