Braised Lamb Shanks w/Soft polenta & Vegetable Stir-Fry

After cooking a delicious meal for family and friends putting your heart and soul into every little details you often find yourself sitting at the table satisfied with what you have created but not wanting to eat any of it. It seems like the sight, the smell and the touch of food has also the power to feed your soul. However, soon after this state of bliss subsides you are brought back to harsh reality by your stomach going… ‘garrrgggllll’.

It would be okay except that by the time your stomach speaks out, the food has already been devoured by your well-meaning friends who make a point of cleaning every dish to show you their appreciation. How thoughtful! The ‘Chef’s paradox syndrome’, as i like to call it, hits me almost everyday and sadly there’s no cure for it, no hope, no food-viagra pill to give you a sudden hard…euhh…appetite.

So here I am, sitting in front of my laptop eating bodypart candies and drooling over the pictures of what i’ve cooked today. I wish now that i had a bite of those melting lamb shanks braised in leftover Chateau Margaux 1999, a spoonful of soft polenta with hints of parmegiano-reggiano and a taste of those stir-fried cremini mushrooms with artichokes hearts, asparagus tips and fresh sage. It never even crossed my mind to bring a ‘doggy bag’ home… Life can be so unfair sometimes!
I have tried many recipes for braised lamb shanks but this one really stands out. It is an adaptation of Tom Valenti’s (Ouest) and has the most perfect balance of flavor, you’ll understand once you read the ingredients. For a great recipe for soft polenta click here for a previous post covering the subject.

Braised Lamb Shanks
(serves 6)
  • 6 lamb foreshanks
  • Coarse salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 large spanish onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 whole head garlic, cut in half
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups veal stock (or 1 cup demi glace)
  • 2 cups chicken stock


  1. Preheat oven to 325’f
  2. Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper
  3. Heat 3 tbs olive oil in pot over high heat. Add celery, carrots and onions, and cook until very soft, 10 minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste and cook 2 minutes
  5. Add the thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, anchovies, garlic and cook 3 minutes
  6. Add the red and white wine, vinegar and sugar, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil
  7. Add the veal and chicken stocks and simmer
  8. In a saute pan over high heat, brown the shanks well in remaining oil
  9. Transfer to roasting pan and pour the stock mixture on top. Cover with foil.
  10. Cook in preheated oven for 1 hour
  11. Remove the foil and cook another 3 hours, turning the shanks every half hour until very soft
  12. Remove the shanks from braising liquid and strain the liquid. Skim the fat off.
  13. Reduce the sauce to wanted consistency. Serve with the shanks.

Serve with soft polenta and stir fried cremini mushroom, artichokes hearts and asparagus tips in olive oil and garlic with a sprinkle of fresh sage at the end.

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  • Kinni

    I feel you brother. I pour my heart and soul into a dish and I’m done. All I want is another shot of tequila and a rest. Oddly, I sometimes crave junkfood. My bf will be noshing away on my delightful creation and I can’t stop thinking about pot noodle.

  • Zen Chef

    Hi kinni, nice to see you around here!
    I know how you feel. Junk food rules! You should have your boyfriend cook for you once in a while. I mean..euhh…if it’s safe ya know! Don’t want to get poisoned or anything!

  • Rasa Malaysia

    Thanks for your comment on Rasa Malaysia…wow, you are a private chef…cool. I always think it’s real cool to be a private chef. Your lamb shank looks sinfully good.

  • annna

    haha.. i have the same syndrome as u! i guess watching others enjoying the food i cooked/baked satisfies me and at the same time feeding my soul.

  • Waliz

    i dont mind…. esp when they r giving me a free supply…. atleast till i menopause…hehehe

  • Hello Rainbow

    Would you marry me please zenchef? :)

  • Zen Chef

    Rasa Malaysia thanks so much for stopping! I love your blog!
    Private chef is a cool job until your boss enters the kitchen wearing a Speedo swimsuit, then it’s a different story! Haha

  • Zen Chef

    Annna, i know the feeling! But they could at least save some food for you! Hehehe

  • Zen Chef

    Waliz baby, hehehehe… You bad!
    Free supply of Kleenex huh! That should keep you busy for a while haha. I think viagra and kleenex are going to advertise on our blogs reallllly soon! Hehe

  • Zen Chef

    Ahhh thanks Hello rainbow! Finally a proposal, I was loosing hope! Hehe
    You have to ask Waliz if she doesn’t mind sharing hehehe…don’t worry, she’s generous and comes with sponsors. ­čśë

  • SteamyKitchen

    I know what you mean about not wanting to eat – which is a very very good thing b/c if I ate everything I cooked, I’d be like 300 pounds. That would be one giant cream squirt.