The Beauty of the Braise

It’s cold outside! Winter has finally set in. When this happens I revel in the comfort foods. That means we have lots of soups, stews and braises.  A braise has to be my favorite cold weather dinner. I can make it over the weekend and it’s ready to serve. It’s so easy, freeing me up to be with my guests.


This past weekend I saw a recipe for lamb shanks in chipotle coffee sauce by Boston Zest. It sounded so intriguing I just had to try it.  I couldn’t find the chipotle sauce they called for so I made my own with tomato sauce and a few minced chipotles in adobo, I used red wine instead of water and they turned out fabulous!  Click Here for my recipe


The beauty of a braise is it’s the gift that keeps on giving, that is if you have leftovers. Over the weekend we enjoyed watching the football with the shanks over mashed potatoes topped with a gremolata.


Last night I shredded the leftover shanks, returned them to the sauce and served it over pasta. Steve didn’t even recognize it as the same dish! That is awesome for me since he’s not a fan of leftovers, had he spotted a leftover,  it would have clouded his dinner.


The braise is a mixture of liquid and meat of your choice. It usually involves tough cuts of meat that are not that desirable, beef, lamb, venison, pork, etc.  First they are seared and then given a long cooking period so you end up with a fork tender, flavorful mess with a luscious sauce. This, my friends, is the beauty of the braise.


Another redeeming quality of the braise is it’s hard to mess it up. If you have great ingredients then it’s pretty much a given it will turn out. Now, I should mention that I have screwed up a few times. When that happens I’ve overused strongly flavored items like chipotles, anchovies, bacon, peppers, etc.


We are having the Girlfriends over this week for our monthly dining club.  We prepped the dish over the weekend, braised it in the oven and it is in the refrigerator waiting to be defatted and served over potatoes on Wednesday for dinner. I find this the easy way to remove fat and to let the flavors meld. Chill the braise the pull the solidified fat off of the contents of the pot. Don’t do it too early since the fat seals the dish and keeps it free of contaminants and retains the freshness.


I’ve been posting the braises all through the fall and winter season. You can find the Branzato di manzo, Beef Braise Osso Buco Style  or the Venison Osso Buco by Lidia Bastanich, now this wonderful recipe for Lamb Shanks.


My hope is that you will love a braise as much as I do.


Lamb Shanks Braised in Chipotle and Coffee
  • 6 Lamb Shanks seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2-3 Tbs. Olive Oil for browning
  • 2 Large Onions, chopped
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 2 - 3 Chipotle Chili’s in Adobo, chopped
  • 2 8 oz Cans of Tomato Sauce
  • 1½ cup of strong, brewed, black coffee
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1-2 cups of hot water, red or white wine or Chicken Stock to cover the shanks
  • 4 Large Carrots, peeled and chopped as desired
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees or if you have a convection oven, set it for 300 degrees. Heat the Olive Oil in your Dutch oven or cooking pan and sear the lamb shanks, a few at a time, until dark brown and crusted. Use thongs to turn them as they brown. Set the browned shanks aside on a plate.
  2. Meanwhile prepare the braising liquid: combine the tomato sauce, 2 of the chipotle chili’s, coffee, maple syrup, 2 teaspoons of salt, a few grinds of pepper and 1 cup of water, stock or wine together in a large mixing bowl. Taste the liquid and add the remaining chili to taste.
  3. Pour out all but a thin film of the oil and sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes then add the garlic. Cook, stirring often for 1 minute. Nestle the shanks in the pan and pour the braising liquid over the contents in the pan. Add more water, stock or wine to cover the shanks. Heat to a gentle boil on the stove top, seal with a lid and transfer it to the oven.
  4. Braise the Lamb for 1 ½ hours, then check the contents of the Dutch oven. Add more of the stock, wine or water if needed, turn the shanks and add the carrots. Return the Lamb to the oven and braise for 1 hour more. Pull the pan from the oven. Check to see if the lamb is tender, if not return to the oven for 30 minutes. When the lamb is tender remove the pan from the oven and let it rest uncovered until you are ready to finish the dish.*
  5. To finish the dish, skim the fat from the pot. Taste the braising liquid and adjust the seasoning with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  6. Serve the shanks over polenta, rice, faro, pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes. Enjoy!!!
*the recipe can be made ahead at this point. Cool the dish to room temperature and refrigerate up to 3 days. Continue as directed.


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