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Stewed Basque Lamb Shank With Espelette » Simple and Healthy Recipe! ✅

Inspired by axoa, a traditional Basque stew of braised beef and peppers, flavored with piment d’Espelette, these lamb stews are a hymn to my great-grandmother Jeanne-Marie. Although I have never had the pleasure of meeting her, or experiencing the gustatory pleasure of eating one of her dishes, I grew up listening to my mother tell me stories of those dinners, especially my great-grandmother’s roast lamb (as mine would say!) mother -! A beautiful thing!).

Axoa is one of those rustic dishes that varies from house to house in the French Basque Country. Most use veal, some use beef or lamb. Some recipes call for tomatoes, others without tomatoes and just peppers. Some also add minced Bayonne ham to the mix. Whatever the slight variations, three things are constant in this dish: a mix of red and green bell peppers, chopped onions, and dried piment d’Espelette (one of four French Basque ingredients I always have in my pantry). Traditionally, this stew is served with boiled potatoes. I love it with Yukon Gold potatoes peeled, boiled until tender in heavily salted water, then drizzled with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. If you’re not serving it with potatoes, make sure you have plenty of croutons on hand to flavor the sauce!

While you can make quick-cook versions of axoa, this stew is best made with whole cuts of muscle that are braised until tender and fall off the bone. Here we use leg of lamb, but shoulder of lamb would also be fine. Or you could go classic and use the shoulder or leg of veal. This recipe would also work with large chunks of beef or legs (just reduce the amount of boneless meat to 2 1/2 pounds). If you choose to use boneless meats, replace the water with vegetable or beef broth (since the bones give a lot of meaty flavor to the braising liquid). —Asha Loupy

ingredients
  • 4 legs of lamb (about 3 pounds)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 large red bell pepper

  • 2 medium poblano chiles or one large green chile

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 3/4 cup dry white wine

  • 1 teaspoon piment d’Espelette powder, plus more for garnish

  • 2 large sprigs of thyme

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 3 cups of water

  • 1 pound boiled waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold or red bliss, per serving

Indications
  1. Pat the lamb legs dry. Sprinkle everything with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, making sure to season evenly. Place them on a plate or baking sheet and let them return to room temperature for about 1 hour.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the peppers. Using a potato peeler, she peels the red and poblano peppers, applying light pressure as she peels to prevent too much pulp from being removed (don’t worry about the skins getting into the ridges). She cuts each bell pepper in half, removes the seeds and ribs, and cuts into cubes. Place in a medium bowl and reserve.

  3. Heat oven to 300°F. To begin braising, heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and continue heating for another 15 seconds (heating the pan before adding the oil will prevent the oil from burning). Add the lamb legs, browning on all sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the browned legs, transfer to a plate and set aside.

  4. Reduce heat to medium and add the diced bell peppers, onions, garlic, and remaining ½ tablespoon kosher salt. Saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften and onions begin to turn translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for another minute. Add the wine and piment d’Espelette, stir, and continue cooking until most of the alcohol has dried, about 2 more minutes. Add the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and water, stirring to combine. Place the browned lamb shanks in the broth, cover and bring to a boil.

  5. Transfer the covered pot to the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and continue cooking until the lamb is tender and the sauce has reduced by half, about another 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the lamb legs to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm, then carefully wipe off any excess fat on the surface of the sauce and save for another use. If you want the sauce to be a little thicker, return it to the heat over medium heat and reduce to desired density. The sauce should still be a bit sloppy but cover a tablespoon.

  6. To serve, pour half the sauce into a large shallow serving dish, place the braised lamb legs on top, and pour the rest of the sauce over them. Serve with boiled potatoes and decorate with an extra pinch of piment d’Espelette.

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