Lamb Shanks Cooked in Paper with Guinness

Winter 2006
food and drink

BY: Jennifer McLagan

I love cooking 'en papillote'. With this technique, the food is sealed in a paper package with flavourings and baked. Ask the butcher to french the shanks for you, or do it yourself. You want to expose about 3-inches (8-cm) of the shank bone. This allows you to tie the parchment paper to the bone. These packages won't be airtight, so they don't puff up, but the technique concentrates the flavours and makes a great presentation. If the parchment paper is too fussy for you, just make the dish in a Dutch oven or flameproof casserole.

4 lamb shanks, about 12 oz (375 g) each, frenched
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable oil
8 medium onions, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 large rosemary sprigs
One 330 mL bottle Guinness
1/3 packed cup (75 mL) brown sugar
1½ tsp (7 mL) dry mustard
4 garlic cloves, halved
1 orange

1. Pat the lamb shanks dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and brown the lamb shanks on all sides. Transfer them to a plate. Add the onions to the pan, stirring well to coat in the fat, then cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until soft, stirring 2 or 3 times and scraping the bottom of the pan each time.

2. Add the carrot, celery and rosemary and cook uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan from time to time. Pour in the beer and bring to a boil deglazing the pan by scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Add the sugar, mustard and garlic and continue to boil, stirring from time to time, for 10 minutes, or until the beer becomes thick and syrupy.

3. Meanwhile, remove 4 large strips of zest from the orange with a vegetable peeler and squeeze ¼ cup (50 mL) juice from the orange. Add the zest and juice to the pan. Continue to cook until the liquid just glazes the onions. Remove from the heat and let it cool. You will have 3 to 4 cups (750 mL to 1 L) onion mixture.

4. Preheat the oven to 300ºF (150ºC).

5. Cut four 15-inch (38-cm) squares of parchment paper. Divide the onion mixture among the squares of parchment paper, placing it in the middle of each square. Make sure that each square has a rosemary sprig, an orange zest strip and 2 garlic halves. Stand a lamb shank on top of each (it will lean to one side), and pull up the corners of the parchment paper to form a package, tying it with string around the exposed bone.

6. Stand the packages in a Dutch oven or baking dish and bake for 3 hours.

7. Remove from the oven and place the packages on warmed plates. Cut the strings but allow each diner to open his or her own package.

Serves 4