Although I never thought of myself as someone who would enjoy using a slow cooker, since I bought mine a year ago I have completely fallen in love with it. When I know I will have a busy day coming up, I try and plan a slow cooker meal that I can assemble in the morning, turn on, and have ready by dinner. Shanks of any variety, whether they are lamb, veal, or pork are great cooked in a slow cooker as this type of meat lends itself perfectly to slow braising. After 6 hours in the slow cooker, the meat literally falls right off the bone. Although you could add carrots, mushrooms or celery to this dish, I decided to keep it simple, and chose to use just fennel and onions instead. To serve my dish, I made a pot of quick cooking polenta flavored with sweet potatoes and which complimented the rich flavors of the shanks perfectly.
When serving rich, braised meats, a topping that is made from combining parsley, lemon zest, and garlic called gremolata really brings the flavors of this dish together.
Deborah Mele 2013
- 2 Red Onions, Peeled And Cut Into Wedges
- 2 Fennel Bulbs, Trimmed, Cored & Cut Into Wedges
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Sliced
- 1 Cup Chopped Tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1 Teaspoon Chopped Fresh Thyme
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 4 Meaty Lamb Shanks, Trimmed
- Salt & Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1 Cup White Wine
Sweet Potato Polenta:
- 1 Cup Quick Or Instant Polenta
- 2 Cups Mashed, Baked Sweet Potatoes
- 1 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Fresh Sage
- Salt & Pepper
- 3 Cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 3/4 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves
- Zest From 1 Lemon
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Chopped
- Put the onion, fennel, garlic, broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf in a slow cooker and stir to mix well.
- Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper.
- In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until hot, then add the shanks and brown well on all sides, about 8 minutes total.
- Transfer to the slow cooker.
- Remove the sauté pan from the heat, pour in the wine and return to medium-high heat.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom, then add the wine to the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours according to the manufacturers instructions.
- To make the gremolata topping, place the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to finely mince.
- Remove the bay leaf from the cooking liquid.
- Remove the lamb shanks to a heated platter, and increase the heat to high for 30 minutes to thicken the sauce. (Alternatively, use a hand wand to blend the vegetables into the sauce and thicken.)
- In a pot, mix the polenta with the broth, mashed sweet potatoes, sage, salt and pepper and cook until tender following manufacture's directions.
- Once cooked, stir the butter into the polenta.
- Spoon the polenta onto four individual plates, then top with lamb shanks, sauce and vegetables, and serve immediately topped with a spoonful of gremolata.