Braised Lamb Shanks with Ancho Chiles and Cumin

Ancho (Ahn-cho) Chile (Capsicum Annum) means Wide Chile Pepper. This chile ranges from 3 – 4 on a heat scale of 1 to 10. An Ancho is the dried form of a Poblano Pepper and often is mislabeled as a Pasilla or Mulato Pepper. Anchos have sweet fruity flavor with hints of cherry, prune, and fig. Anchos, combined with the Pasilla and Guajillo, form the Holy Trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces. Scoville heat units are 1,000 to 3,000.

Suggested Use:
Anchos are great in salsa, soups, enchilada and any sauce needing mild heat and chile flavor. Chopped, pureed or ground, they can be added directly to your recipes.

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1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin
6 meaty lamb shanks
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 qts chicken stock or low-sodium broth


Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small bowl, mix the salt with the ancho powder and cumin. Rub the lamb shanks with the ancho mixture.

In an enameled cast-iron casserole large enough to hold the lamb shanks, heat the vegetable and olive oils until shimmering. Add the lamb shanks and cook, turning, until well-browned on all sides. Transfer the shanks to a large plate.

Reduce the heat to moderate and add the onions, garlic, celery and the carrots to the casserole. Cover and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Return the shanks to the casserole. Add the anchos and stock and bring to a boil. Cover the shanks with a sheet of parchment paper and the lid. Braise the shanks on the bottom rack of the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, turning the shanks halfway through.

The shanks are done when the meat is very tender and pulling away from the bones. Transfer the shanks to an ovenproof serving dish and turn off the oven. Cover with foil and keep warm in the oven.

Set the casserole over high heat and boil the sauce until reduced to 8 cups, skimming as necessary. Working in batches, puree the braising juices and vegetables until smooth. Strain the sauce over the shanks and serve.

Serves 6.

Recipe by Bob Chambers, Serve With Fried polenta or rice pilaf.