Braised Lamb Shanks with Creamy Polenta


There is a broad perception that Pinot Noir is too delicate for heartier dishes. We think the variety is best served with salmon or poultry—in truth, it’s really dependent on the individual wine, Pinot runs the gamut in terms of its aromatic intensity, structure, and body. When pairing with the variety, all of this should be taken into account. While that’s easier said than done for most of us, there are wines that will effortlessly stand up to hearty stews and braised meat.

Here we’ve paired braised lamb shanks with our 2017 Mistletoe Pinot Noir, one of our more broad-shouldered bottlings (it’s worth mentioning that our 2017 Freedom Hill Pinot Noir also fits the bill quite nicely). 

Homemade Braised Lamb Shanks




4        16-18 ounce lamb shanks

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2        tablespoons vegetable oil

1        medium Walla Walla sweet onion, finely diced 

2        medium carrots, peeled and diced 

1        stalk celery, diced 

4        cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced 

2        tablespoons tomato paste

1-2     tablespoons anchovy paste

1        cup dry red wine that’s not too oaky 

1        8 ounce container veal or beef demi-glace

Bouquet garni composed of 5 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 bay leaf

Fresh, finely chopped parsley for garnish


1        cup polenta (we love Golden Pheasant)

4        cups water

1        teaspoon salt

2        tablespoons butter

2       cups whole milk


A 2-3 quart Dutch oven


Preheat oven to 325°. 

Pat the lamb shanks dry with a paper towel, then season them generously with salt and pepper.

In the Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the lamb shanks, two at a time, and sear until golden brown and set aside. 

Add the onions with a pinch of salt and sauté for 5-7 minutes until browned and translucent. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 3-5 minutes, until fragrant. 

Stir in the tomato and anchovy paste, wine, and the demi-glace and stir until the vegetables are evenly coated. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat, and nestle the lamb shanks into the vegetable mixture. Cover the Dutch oven, place it in the oven, and braise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat has pulled back from the bone and is fall-apart tender. 

During the last half hour of braising combine the polenta, water, salt, and butter in a medium-sized pot. Heat to a boil and stir, then reduce the heat to a simmer, uncovered. The polenta will gradually thicken as it absorbs water. (At this point, we stray from the conventional recipe by adding milk) 

Add the milk one cup at a time. Stir frequently to keep the polenta from sticking. Add the rest of the milk and continue stirring until the polenta has thickened, we like ours to be roughly the same consistency as mashed potatoes. 

Spoon the polenta onto a plate, top with a lamb shank, and the reduced liquid from the dutch oven. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately. 

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