In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion: Lamb Shank in Adobo Sauce

7 Apr

I know that they say spring comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb, but this recipe will make it the opposite. It is so super flavorful that you could literally put this sauce on anything and make it delicious.

VEGANS/VEGETARIANS: Please have a look at this sauce! It’s totally vegan and SO delicious! I can’t wait to use it on tofu, tempeh or jackfruit for tacos! Just ignore the stuff about the lamb. Please.

And this one goes out to Girl in a Food Frenzy, because I know she’s “down under” and likes lamb as much as I do. I also think my friends in the UK will love this too (well, Tracey won’t love the lamb part). I’m not sure if they’ll be able to get all the special dried chiles over there unless they order them from the Internet…

Prepped and ready to go.

But that said, a lot of people will have that problem if they’re not in Mexico (der), California, Arizona, New Mexico—even in some parts of Texas they might have a problem. Maybe my sister-in-law down there can let me know. (Hi, T!)

I may have mentioned that last December my best friend and I drove out to Sedona, Arizona for a short girls’ weekend. It was fab being able to have hours to talk about all sorts of stuff, be weird like we used to in school, catch up on gossip…oh yeah, and eat and drink ourselves stupid. It was wonderful. And the culinary highlight of the trip was Elote Café. Can I just say: DO NOT miss this place when you go to Sedona! It would be a complete crime! Jeff Smedstad is a genius. And he was nice enough to sign my cookbook and not be a total celebrity chef a**hole about it.

Simmering sauce.

I was so full by the time my lamb in adobo sauce showed up (or maybe I was just over-enamored with the jalapeño margaritas to care?) that I only had a few bites. We were leaving the next morning and there was a fridge in our room (not to mention snow outside), so I figured I’d take it home to share with The Husband.

All went to plan, except he tasted it, thought the lamb shanks I’d cooked before were better, so I cut the meat off the bone. Meat went in freezer, bone went to dog, who was over the moon with such a treat.

Out of the oven!

Unfortunately, The Husband took the meat out of the freezer a month or so ago, probably not knowing what it was, and forgot to tell me. By the time I found it, it had gone bad. As much as I wanted to throw myself on the ground and have a tantrum, I didn’t, because I realized that the recipe was in the Elote Café cookbook. SCORE!

I tried not to make dinner all about what I wanted, so I looked up a couple of recipes that used pork—The Husband’s favorite. But alas, our Whole Foods did not have any pork shoulder (thinking about it, they rarely do), and there was two lovely lamb shanks waiting to come home with me.

And, to be honest, The Husband loved it. LOVED IT. Licked-his-plate-and-ate-it-all kind of loved it. I can’t wait to make it again! Let me know what you think, and veggie eaters out there, let me know what you would want to use it on:


(Serves 2) Adapted from the Elote Café cookbook by Jeff Smedstad

2 lamb shanks, covered all over with salt and freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:

Dinner is served.

6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups orange juice
2 small dried ancho chiles, cleaned, seeded and stemmed
1 dried guajillo chile, cleaned, seeded and stemmed
1 dried pasilla negra chile, cleaned, seeded and stemmed
1 stick of Mexican cinnamon (canela), 1.5 inches long**
1 tsp fresh whole peppercorns**
1 tsp cumin seeds**
1 Tbs Mexican oregano
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
Radishes and pickled onions to garnish

Take a large, deep frying pan or saucepan large enough to hold all the sauce ingredients and place it over a medium-high heat. Gently toast the garlic until lightly browned all over, then add chiles; toast for one minute. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until the chiles are softened. Cool slightly and purée until very smooth.

Take a large heavy (preferably cast iron) pan that is ovenproof and has a lid and heat it to medium-high. Add the lamb shanks and brown all over—chef reminds us that we cannot rush this process, it’s the most important part. Once they are well browned all over, add the puréed sauce. Cover and bake at 325° F for about 4 hours or fork tender. Serve with garnishes.

Toast and grind those spices. You won't regret it!

**I modified the recipe slightly by toasting the peppercorns, cumin seed and cinnamon then grinding them in a spice grinder before adding them to the sauce.

I served this with goat-cheese polenta with chives, but mashed potatoes or cauliflower would also work.

Actually, while writing the post, The Husband now wants this for dinner tomorrow night! Ha ha!

Kayla enjoying her bone

Delicious, rich sauce ready for cooking.


8 Responses to “In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion: Lamb Shank in Adobo Sauce”

  1. girlinafoodfrenzy April 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Looks do rich & incredibly tasty! I love the look of that sauce with the myriad of chillies you got going there! Kayla looks like she’s truly enjoying her bone (of course!) You’ve got me right as I absolutely love, love, love my lamb! Flow braided, bbq’d kebabs, curried yep, love it 🙂

    • tinykitchenstories April 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

      I knew we had that common bond…if you can find the chiles, I really, really recommend this recipe! 🙂

      • girlinafoodfrenzy April 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

        I’m thinking of doing an order on line and growing some specific varieties I can’t seem to find. Not only chillies but I keep hearing about white and yellow raspberries which sound incredible too 🙂 Enjoy your Easter Weekend!

        • tinykitchenstories April 8, 2012 at 11:16 am #

          You too! The dried chiles will last forever if you keep them in an airtight container. The raspberries….well, they *shouldn’t* last long at all! 🙂 Happy Easter!

  2. The Mouse April 8, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Saw that last picture and got verklempt then fainted. 🙂

    • tinykitchenstories April 8, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      I nearly fainted when I ate it. This is one damn good recipe (I can say that because it’s not mine!), and I highly recommend that you give it a whirl. I’ll send you the chiles myself! Happy Easter! 🙂
      P.S. your comments always make me laugh out loud! 😉

  3. thegrubbyhen April 11, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    That looks like one EPIC sauce! i’m actually drooling…

    • tinykitchenstories April 11, 2012 at 10:58 am #

      I can’t wait to make it again! May have to be this weekend… Thanks for the comment!

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