We had a request recently to provide lamb shanks as an entree for a large group of people. Being that this is a specialty item that requires a bit of finesse to get right we decided to order a case and start experimenting on our friends to get our lamb shank groove back. For this particular recipe we decided to go with braised, then slow cooked shanks with plum and rosemary.
I started by trimming and seasoning the shanks then dredging in a flour and spice mix before searing off in a hot heavy bottom pan in small batches with a good squirt of olive oil. Turn the shanks until browned all over then deglaze the pan with red wine. Reserve the fond and wine mix and continue to brown the remaining shanks in olive oil. This can all be done very successfully in a cast iron dutch oven but I chose to do this version in a clay casserole dish. At this stage I arranged a combo of turnip, baby carrots and yellow onion layering maybe 1/3 on the bottom of the casserole dish then topping with shanks and finishing with the remaining veg mix. I combined the reserved fond with 2 cups of good beef broth, 2-3 tablespoons of homemade plum jam and 1 cup (or more) of red wine. I covered the whole mix so that the liquid came 2/3 up the sides of the dish and sprinkled fresh rosemary and thyme over the whole mess. Cover with foil and pop into a 375* oven for an hour. No need to check progress at this point but lower the temperature to 300* and allow your house to fill with the most phenomenal smells of a French country kitchen. I let mine go for another 3 hours, uncovering for the last hour and adjusting the shanks so the don't dry out on top. At this point they are ready to serve but I recommend doing a quick skim of fat from the top of the dish.
As far as what to serve it with, the options abound. Mashed potatoes or soft polenta are a couple of great accompaniments but we opted for German spaetzle with fried onions, fresh herbs and Gruyere cheese. Good crusty bread and a hearty red wine are also a must but I encourage you to make this dish your own and experiment with the basic plan.