Chile Braised Lamb Shanks

This Mexican chile pepper is called “Chilaca” when used fresh. In California the Poblano chile is often called Pasilla. Since most of these are bought and distributed from California this mislabeling often carries over into the supermarkets nationwide causing alot of confusion. This chile is very mild and is usually consumed in the dry form to make the famous Mexican ‘mole’ sauces.

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12 American lamb shanks
sea salt, to taste
4 Modelo Negro or other dark beer
garnish, chopped cilantro or parsley
1-1/2 pounds dried pasilla chiles, de-stemmed
1 pound dried guajillo chiles, de-stemmed
4-8 chilies de arbol, de-stemmed
12 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup toasted and ground cumin seeds
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. fresh ground pepper


For the Marinade:

Toast the chiles for 2 minutes in a 350F oven. Soak the roasted chiles in hot water to cover for about an hour or until soft. Drain off the water and reserve. Put chiles in a pot that you can blend in and add back just enough soaking water to allow you to blend with a handheld blender into a thick smooth paste. Add the water back gradually as needed. Strain through a fine sieve. then add the garlic, cumin, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.

Trim the lamb shanks of surface fat and season with salt. Smear very liberally with the chile paste and marinate for 24 hours.

Place the meat in a roasting pan and add the dark beers and water to come halfway up over the shanks. Cover with foil and bake in a 325F oven until the shanks are tender and the meat is almost falling off bones.

To finish the dish:

Remove the shanks and transfer to a platter and keep warm. Skim off any excess fat from the sauce and whisk it until smooth, adding up to 1/2 a cup of water as needed to make a rich sauce.

To serve:

Place the lamb shanks on a plate and spoon on some of the sauce. Serve with goat cheese mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes (half winter russet potatoes and half light yellow, not orange, sweet potatoes). Sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley.

Recipe by Chef Cindy Pawlcyn of Cindys Backstreet Kitchen, Napa, California.