muhammara-inspired lamb shanks

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  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided in half
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cup stock (either beef, vegetable, or chicken)
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt to taste (I use 3/4 teaspoon total, but it depends on the saltiness of your stock)
  • 4 to 4 1/2 pounds lamb shanks (about 3 large, or 6 small)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • for serving: crusty bread


  1. Turn one or two gas stove burners to medium heat and place the red peppers directly over the grates.* Cook the peppers, occasionally rotating them. Cook until the peppers are somewhat soft and extremely charred (about 10 minutes total). Remove to a plate and cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Once the peppers have cooled down, use a paper towel to rub away the charred skins. If you’re having trouble removing enough of the char, run them under a little water. Cut the peppers open and discard the seeds, pith, stems, and any excess liquid. Slice the red peppers into half-inch-wide strips. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  4. Preheat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the onions, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they soften a bit.
  5. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and tomato paste to the onions and cook for no longer than 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  6. Turn off the heat, and stir in the stock, pomegranate molasses, crushed red pepper, red wine vinegar, and season to taste. Add the lamb shanks to the braising liquid and try to get everything to fit as snugly as possible. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the red pepper strips between the lamb shanks (make sure they land in the liquid). Season the tops of the lamb shanks with a little more salt. It’s perfectly fine if the lamb is exposed about halfway (the lamb will not be fully submerged).
  7. Cover with a tight lid and move to the oven for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the meat is very tender and pulls apart easily with a fork. It will get tough before getting tender.
  8. About 45 minutes before the lamb is done cooking, sprinkle the remaining red peppers over the surface (some should fall into the liquid, and some should sit on top of the lamb). Cover and continue cooking.
  9. While you’re waiting on the lamb and red peppers, toast the walnuts. Heat a small skillet with 1 tablespoon butter (or 2 teaspoons olive oil) over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until they are fragrant and lightly toasted.
  10. Once the dish is done, skim the fat from the sauce with a fat separator or a spoon.** Alternatively, you could refrigerate the whole thing overnight and then just scrape up the solidified fat. Or you could just leave the fat, because it’s delicious.
  11. Top the lamb with the walnuts, and serve with bread.


* If you don’t have a gas stove, you can use your oven’s broiler or a grill, using the same method and checking frequently. They’ll get softer than with fire-roasting, but that’s ok.

** To use the spoon method, move the sauce to a bowl so that it’s easier to work with. Place the spoon so that it is almost parallel to the sauce’s surface, like a little boat. Keeping it parallel to the surface, slowly let the spoon sink slightly into the liquid, allowing the fat to rush into the spoon’s bowl. Be careful not to dip to low or on too much of an angle, or else you’ll remove a lot of the sauce with the fat. Remove and repeat until you’ve skimmed most of the fat (it takes about 5 minutes).

To store for a couple days: Move the cooled red pepper lamb shanks and sauce to the refrigerator overnight (store the sauce separately to make it easier to skim the next day). When you’re ready to serve, microwave the sauce and red pepper lamb shanks together until they’re heated through (or bake covered at 300°F / 150°C in the pot you braised them in with a couple extra tablespoons of water mixed in, until they’re heated through). Keep an eye on it to make sure it’s not too dry, and add a little more water as necessary (but careful not to water it down too much). Garnish with the walnuts before serving.

To store for up to 3 months: Move the cooled red pepper lamb shanks to 1 or 2 gallon-sized freezer bags, along with any red peppers or other bits and pieces, leaving most of the sauce behind in the pan. Transfer the sauce to a separate freezer-safe container. 1 or 2 days before serving, move the lamb and sauce to the refrigerator to thaw. When you’re ready to serve, reheat as above. If you forget to thaw them, use your microwave’s defrost setting to gently bring them to room temperature before reheating fully.