Braised Lamb Shanks With Roasted Asparagus

8 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs rosemary
6 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
Salt and pepper, to taste
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, peeled and diced
6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
4 celery ribs, chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry, fruity, red wine (such as zinfandel or syrah)
2 cups diced tomatoes, strained
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons honey
2 pounds asparagus spears, trimmed

Tie the thyme, parsley and rosemary together with cooking twine and set aside.

Season the lamb shanks generously with the salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven (or large, heavy-bottomed, ovenproof pot) over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, sear shanks until browned on all sides, for about 10 minutes per batch, adding 2 tablespoons oil for second batch. Remove shanks to a plate.

Drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from Dutch oven; add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Saute over medium heat, until carrots begin to soften, for about 4 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until liquid has reduced by about two-thirds (there will be approximately 1 1/2 cups liquid), for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beef stock, honey and herb bundle, then return to a boil. Add shanks, cover tightly, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender, which will take about 3 hours. Baste shanks occasionally to keep them moist.

Remove shanks from sauce and keep them covered on a warm platter while roasting the asparagus and finishing sauce.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Drizzle each sheet with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, then toss and twirl spears so they are nicely coated in oil. Salt and pepper each tray and roast in preheated oven until slightly wilted and edges have browned, for about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

While asparagus is roasting, remove herb bundle from pot with lamb and discard. Press liquid and solids from Dutch oven through a food mill or fine-meshed strainer. Return puree to Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Boil until liquid has thickened slightly, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste, then return shanks to sauce until ready to serve alongside roasted asparagus.

Makes 6 servings.


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