Lamb Shank Braised with Vegetables en Papillote

Leg of Lamb (Shank) and Lamb Rack

Leg of Lamb (Shank) and Lamb Rack

By Cat, May 2011 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Lamb shanks are not the same as ‘leg of lamb,’ although both are part of the leg. A typical confusion is shown in the photo, right, with a ‘leg of lamb’ on the left (rack of lamb on right), but that ‘leg’ is really a shank.

  • The shank is typically from the upper part of the front leg and shoulder and contains the round leg bone; it is fairly tough and is best cooked by braising or cooking in liquid.(3)  Shanks are an inexpensive cut of meat with wonderful flavor when braised, as in this recipe.
  • Leg of lamb is typically from the hind leg and includes the sirloin section with hip bone, plus the shank portion with round bone, and is usually roasted. It is also possible to purchase the shank portion of the lamb’s hind leg; i.e., the leg of lamb with the sirloin half removed; it is usually roasted. (3)

I love braising a lamb shank because it is fairly easy, with only a small amount of prep, and then a long, slow braise which requires little attention. It is very tender and flavorful, and benefits from the use of herbs and other flavor sources during the braise.

You can braise on stove-top in a saucier, but I much prefer braising in the oven, en papillote, as in this recipe, because it’s easier for the meat to take up the flavors of the veggie mix.

See also: 1. Lamb Recipes Menu; 2. Lamb (About)3. Gelatin & Bone Broth (About)4. Greek Style Roasted Potatoes, with Garlic, Lemon & Oregano

Lamb Shank Braised with Vegetables en Papillote

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1), originally by Molly Stevens, and serves 2 – 4. It employs a different method of braising, using aluminum foil (to retain heat and moisture) that promises to be delicious. However, using aluminum bothers me because this toxic heavy metal can leach into the food. True ‘en papillote’ uses a parchment wrap. So I line the foil with the parchment, then lay the shank and veggies on the parchment, to protect the food from the aluminum.

I love the combination of flavors, and this recipe is easily adapted to fewer or more shanks.

Many people don’t like the taste of lamb meat, but when I I give them a sample of mine, seasoned with allspice, cinnamon, and cayenne (as a rub), they can’t believe how good it is. I learned about this from several Greek and Mediterranean restaurants in Portland OR (when I lived there). I include this spice mix in my recipe, below.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Lamb:
  • 2 lamb shanks (about 1 lb each), trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp lard or coconut oil plus ½ Tbsp olive oil; (use less of each if only one shank)
  • unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste *
  • Spice mix (optional* but highly recommended); two options: 
    1. General mix, approximate amounts
      • 1 tsp allspice
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • ½ tsp cayenne
    2. My Christmas mix
      • General mix (above), plus
      • red pepper flakes and rosemary, to taste
  • Veggie mix:
  • 4 or more medium carrots (originally 2 carrots)
  • 4 or more medium leeks (white & light-green parts), or mix of leeks and scallions (originally 2 leeks)
  • 1-2 shallots, halved (optional)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly (optional)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 strips orange zest
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs (optional)
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • Deglaze: ¼ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 2 slices
  • Equipment:
  • cast iron skillet
  • aluminum foil
  • parchment paper
  • baking sheet

‘* Cat’s Spice-rub mix for lamb (see also Cat’s Lamb Rub on the Herbs & Spice: Blends page). I keep a small jar of my own spice mix, about 1 tsp each allspice and cinnamon, and ½ tsp cayenne, mixed well. I may also add dried, granulated garlic. For each shank I use about 1 tsp of that mix, plus ½ tsp unrefined sea salt and ¼ tsp black pepper, mixed well. I sprinkle this mix over the prepped shank and then rub it in. Then I do a very light sprinkling of the salt over the shank.


  1. Position oven rack in lower third of oven, and preheat to 275°F for a slower-cook, or 300°F for normal.
  2. Prep lamb: Pat lamb shanks dry, trim.  To trim: first cut away any silverskin and excess fat; then sever the tendons at the narrow end of the shank by inserting knife under each one and sliding along the bone. The “” links (1) are no longer available. See short YouTube Video: How to Prepare a lamb Shank (2).
  3. Combine salt, pepper and optional spices in tiny bowl; mix well.
  4. Rub salt/pepper/spice mix all over the meat; let rest while you prep the veggies and papillote.
  5. Prep veggies:
    • Leeks: Wash then halve lengthwise, and cut into 1½ inch lengths.
    • Carrots: Wash then halve lengthwise, and cut into 1½ inch lengths.
    • Fennel (if using): Wash, then cut crosswise into crescents, or vertically into 8 sections.
    • Rosemary sprigs: Trim.
    • Shallot (if using): Cut in half lengthwise, then remove thin, dried outer layer. If a large shallot, cut in half lengthwise again.
    • Garlic clove: Sliced thinly.
    • Orange zest: cut strips of zest using a potato peeler.
  6. Prep en papillote:
    • For 2 shanks: Cut 2 each, 18”x18” squares of heavy-duty foil and arrange similar squares (typically 16″x16″) of parchment paper on top.
    • OR, for just one shank, or 2 small shanks (less than 1 lb each) you need only 1 square each of foil and parchment.
    • Arrange on papillote(s):
      • If using 2 papillotes, arrange on each: half the leeks and carrots, 1 sprig of rosemary, 1 strip of orange zest. Season with red pepper flakes, salt & pepper.
      • If using only one papillote, arrange all the veggies on it.
  7. Brown shanks: Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, then brown lamb shanks on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Do in batches as necessary to avoid crowding. Transfer each shank to a foil & parchment square, arranging on top of the veggies; then scatter the remaining half of veggies over the shank(s). Draw up the sides of the packets to contain the juices, but do not seal yet.
  8. Deglaze: Add wine to skillet to deglaze, then remove from heat and divide the juices evenly among each papillote. Dot each with butter, then fold the edges of the parchment to form rectangular packets and seal; then seal the foil over the parchment.
  9. Oven Braise: Arrange packets evenly on baking sheet, without overlapping (they can touch). Place in oven to cook (depending on size of shanks) for 2½ – 3 hours if oven at 275°F for slower cook, or 2 – 2½ hours if oven at 300°F.  Ideal meat temp of 145°F. Check one papillote packet for done-ness by carefully opening packet – beware of scalding steam! Meat should be fork-tender; if not, reseal and continue to bake another 10 – 15 minutes.
  10. Serve:
    • Transfer contents of each packet to plate or pasta bowl, surrounding the shanks with the veggies and juices.
    • Remove rosemary and orange zest if desired.
    • Can also serve with small red or yellow-Finn potatoes, steamed, and a side of braised green veggies (such as spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, or snap-peas).


Testing 6/5/12: Made 1 shank, so halved all ingredients. Had a tiny piece of shallot to use up so added that to the veggies. Used 12”x12” square parchment and foil (can’t get 16×16 parchment here). It was a tight fit, but it worked. The parchment stayed sealed and didn’t leak into the foil; the foil helped to hold heat. The end result: took 2 hours, 45 minutes until tender, but tender and delicious it was! I’d only intended to eat half the shank but it was so good I ate it all (plus it was a smaller shank). The only change I’d make is to use more veggies with each shank, as I had to cook an additional veggie side dish to get my quota; I prepared wilted spinach and sauteed zucchini slices, along with my usual ¼ beet. Recipe updated with the increase in veggies.

Testing 7/8/13: Made 1 shank; didn’t have leek so used a small shallot and 2 green onions. Also added half a fennel bulb, cut into sections the size of the carrot pieces. Again, hard to seal the parchment but the foil will hold it closed. Oops, forgot the red pepper flakes. Served with braised beet greens and snap peas, and half a small boiled beet. Result: Delicious. All the veggies cooked to really soft and the fennel added nice flavor – I didn’t miss the red pepper flakes.

Testing 12/28/14: Made 2 shanks but enclosed them together in larger sheets of parchment and foil. Didn’t have leek so used 2 shallots. Did not use fennel bulb. Was a tight fit to wrap it up but I managed. Got a late start so into oven at 5:30, and I upped heat to 325°F. Done at 7:45; total braising time: 2 hr 15 min. Result: Delicious and nicely tender, but would have been better with fennel.

Testing 6/2/8/19: Made 2 shanks; one is quite large (1.44 lb) and the other much smaller (0.86 lb) for total of 2.5 lb. Trimmed shanks as in Fine Cooking article (2). Used one parchment/foil combo for both shanks, placing prepped leek, carrot, fennel bulb & leaves, rosemary, orange zest, and red pepper flakes in center of parchment, then prepped shanks on top, and poured oil/vermouth deglaze over. Wrapped parchment, but couldn’t quite fold to seal. Then wrapped and sealed larger foil. Oops, forgot to dot with butter. Set in fridge to marinate at 11 AM. Into 300°F oven 4 PM. Tested done at 6:15, total 2 hours 15 min.. Turned off oven but left the wrapped shanks/veggies, in oven to keep warm while I finished cooking side dishes: wild rice and braised asparagus/broccoli, about 15 minutes. Result: excellent! as always. Have about 2 – 3 servings left; cut all meat off the bones and put into fridge with the veggies and sauce. Will give the bones to a friend who has dogs.

Testing 12/25/19 (Christmas Day): made 1 large 1.4 lb shank. Prepped as before except I seasoned the shank with an allspice, cinnamon and cayenne mix, in addition to salt and pepper. I forgot the red pepper flakes and rosemary, and didn’t have any fennel. I did remember to dot with butter. Marinated only about 2 hours. Into oven at 3 PM; checked at 5:15 PM – not done yet so resealed and back into oven.  Out of oven at 5:45 PM.  Served with braised green beans and broccoli, steamed yellow fin potato, and beet. Æblekage and whipped cream for dessert. Result: excellent; the veggies cooked with the lamb are delicious – I love using both leaks and shallots in the veggie mix; and they went well with the braised green beans/broccoli.

Testing 2/16/21: Preheated oven to 300. Used 1 large 1.4 lb shank. Cut off large sections of fat (at large end), and cut tendons from bone at small end. Oops, forgot to rub salt and pepper onto shank. Prepped 2 carrots, fennel bulb, 1 clove garlic, sliced thinly, and 1 each leek and scallion. Sprinkled with red pepper flakes but forgot the spices; did not marinate. Browned shank (3-sides), glazed pan with Vermouth and poured that over the shank on top of veggies. Dotted with butter, and sprinkled with salt and pepper before closing the papillote, then put into oven at 4:15 PM. Almost done at 6:30 (2¼ hours). 6:45 PM: done; removed from oven; total 2½ hrs. Result: Very good, but needed more salt (should have rubbed it in before placing en papillote; plus, I miss the spices. Served with lightly cooked fresh asparagus and beet, plus the veggies from the papillote, and a bit of the liquids from the braise.

Testing 5/31/21: Made as before, same size shank, except I remembered to include salt and pepper in the spice mix. Used carrots, leek and scallion, fennel bulb and some of the fennel leaves, garlic, and rosemary sprigs.  Sprinkled veggies w red pepper flakes. Added deglaze liquid and into 300°F oven at 5:10 PM. Oops, forgot to dot w butter; added butter and red pepper flakes at 6 PM. Not quite done at 7:10 PM (2 hours); done at 7:25, total 2¼ hours. Result: Very good, but this  shank did not have as much meat as previous test, even tho weight of the shanks were about the same (1.4 lb), so I made more veggies than needed, but that’s OK – can eat the leftovers with a different meal. Result:  Delicious. Meat nicely tender and veggies perfectly done, but I should not have added so many fennel leaves to the papillote.

Testing 4/16/22 (Easter Sunday): Evening before, I thawed frozen rosemary sprigs. Day of: Pre-heated oven to 300°F. Prepped 2 smaller shanks (0.8 lb each) for one papillote.  Prepped spice, salt, and pepper mix in tiny bowl, then rubbed over the shanks. Arranged papillote (aluminum foil with parchment on top) on baking sheetPrepped veggies (carrots, leeks, fennel bulb and part of leaves, shallot, garlic clove, and rosemary sprig), then arranged on center of papillote sheets and sprinkled with red pepper flakes. Browned shanks, removed from pan to arrange on veggies; sprinkled a bit of leftover spice mix over. Folded foil/parchment up on 4-sides, but did not seal yet. Deglazed skillet with dry vermouth, then poured deglaze liquid over shanks, dotted each with butter, and sealed papillote closed. Placed baking sheet with sealed papillote into oven at 4 PM; checked at 6:15 PM – DONE! – 2hr, 15 min. (I updated “method” above for time in oven from 2½  – 2¾ hours to 2¼  – 2¾ hours, depending on size of shanks.

Served with veggies from papillote, braised green beans, steamed beet-root, and a slice of sourdough bread with butter (instead of a steamed yellow Finn potato ‘cuz I forgot to buy one). Result: Delicious, but the veggies are  overdone – I cut them too small (in half), and the meat is slightly overdone. Despite this, the shanks are still delicious!

Testing 12/25/22 (Christmas Day): Evening before, I thawed frozen rosemary sprigs. Day of: Pre-heated oven to 300°F. Prepped 1 large shank (1.68 lb) for one papillote – the largest I’ve ever used. Prepped spice, salt, and pepper mix in tiny bowl, then rubbed over the shanks. Arranged papillote (aluminum foil with parchment on top) on baking sheetPrepped veggies (carrots, green onion, shallot, garlic clove, and rosemary sprig), then arranged on center of papillote sheets and sprinkled with red pepper flakes. Browned shank (2 min on each 3 sides), but it is so large that it doesn’t fit well in my largest cast iron skillet; I did the best I could, browning the wide end and letting the narrow (bone) end rest on the top edge of the skillet. Removed from pan to arrange on veggies; sprinkled a bit of leftover spice mix over. Folded foil/parchment up on 4-sides, but did not seal yet. Deglazed skillet with dry vermouth, then poured deglaze liquid over shanks, dotted with butter, and sealed papillote closed. Placed baking sheet with sealed papillote into oven at 3:15 PM; checked at 5:15 PM: up to 150°F so a bit over-done; removed from oven. 2 hour total time in oven.

Served with veggies from papillote, braised green beans and fresh asparagus, steamed beet-root, baked sweet potato and a slice of sourdough bread with butter. Result: Overcooked but still delicious. Maybe a bit too much cayenne and red pepper flakes.

Next time, either lower oven to 275°F, or check after 1 hour, 15 min (I updated “method” accordingly).


  1. Fine Cooking – these links no longer work (boo hoo):
    1. April/May 2011 recipe:
    2. How to prepare and trim a lamb shank (
  2. 5:48 minute YouTube Video: How to Prepare a lamb Shank (see also video screen, below):
  3. Meals for You, on cuts of lamb (

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