Moroccan Spicy Apricot Lamb Shanks

Submitted by Judy on Sun, 09/23/2007 - 1:26pm.

From Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family (Workman) by Judy Bart Kancigor
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While brisket and roast chicken are standard fare for our holiday dinners, our Sephardic mishpuchah dines on dishes like this tender, spicy lamb, which was adapted from Molly O'Neill's take on a recipe by superchef Alain Ducasse.

When I interviewed Wolfgang Puck about his seders at Spago, he told me that if he had been born Jewish, he would have liked to have been born Sephardic because of the cuisine. I know what he means! I love the pungent Moroccan spice mixture and usually make extra to save for flavoring other dishes. The wine is an untraditional addition and would never be used in a Moroccan kitchen.

Interestingly, cookbook author Joyce Goldstein told me that Jews in Arab countries, despite the fact that they do not share their neighbors' prohibition against drinking wine, traditionally do not use it in cooking either. Purists may substitute additional chicken broth for the wine.

4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each), visible fat removed
Kosher (coarse) salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium-size onions, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
1 cup dry red wine
1 3/4 cups homemade chicken stock or 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
Moroccan Spice Mix (recipe follows)
1 cup dried apricots
Black pepper to taste

  1. Soak the lamb shanks in water to cover in a large bowl, changing the water frequently until it runs clear. (This will take about 15 minutes in all.) Remove the lamb shanks, dry them very well with paper towels, and then season them all over with salt.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shanks and brown them on all sides, about 15 minutes altogether. Remove the shanks and set them aside.
  4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, if necessary (you will need it if you have been diligent in removing all the visible fat from the lamb), reduce the heat to medium, and cook the onions until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the wine and deglaze the pot, scraping up all the crusty brown bits. Stir in the chicken stock and the spice mixture. Return the lamb shanks to the pot.
  5. Place the pot in the oven and roast, covered, turning and basting the shanks frequently, for about 1 hour.
  6. Add the apricots and continue roasting, covered, until the meat is very soft, about 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Transfer the shanks to a platter and keep warm. Remove as much fat as possible from the sauce, using a spoon or a fat separator. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Spoon the sauce over the lamb shanks and serve, passing any extra sauce in a sauceboat.

Serves 4

Note: This dish tastes even better the next day and freezes well.


2 thin cinnamon sticks (about 3 inches)
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, or 2 slivers whole nutmeg
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ground cardamom or seeds of 12 pods
½ teaspoon allspice

Combine the spices in a spice grinder or coffee mill, and grind until fine and well mixed.