Dutch Oven Juniper-Beet Braised Lamb Shanks
To make Dutch Oven Juniper-Beet Braised Lamb Shanks, you’ll need to prepare a few things ahead of time. At home, juice about 10 golden beets with a centrifugal juicer, which will comprise the braising liquid. Golden beet juice tastes just like basalt dust, so it is important for this high-desert lamb dish.
You’ll also need to marinate 3 lamb shanks in the juniper-garlic paste (see below) overnight so that it takes on the mood of the desert.
At camp, in the late afternoon, start 21 charcoals. When they are ready, spread them out under your 12-inch cast-iron camp Dutch oven and get the pan roaring hot. Brown the marinated lamb shanks on two sides with 2 tablespoons cooking oil, and toast a handful of garlic cloves and half an onion with the lamb to help flavor the braising liquid. When the meat and vegetables are browned, pour in 2 cups of the golden beet juice and 2 cups white wine so that the shanks are half covered. Add sea salt to taste, 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns, and 2 tablespoons whole juniper berries.
Replace the lid and set the Dutch oven to the side. Move 12 of the roaring hot charcoals to the Dutch oven’s lid, leaving 9 on the ground. Set the Dutch oven back on the 9 charcoals. This ratio of 12 coals on top and 9 on bottom works very well for a 12-inch Dutch and keeps the lamb braising slowly.
The lamb should cook for about 3 hours, until it relaxes from the bone and becomes soft and tender. You will need to start 21 new coals approximately once an hour — or twice during the course of cooking — to replace those that extinguish. Serve the lamb with roasted potatoes and the golden braising liquid.
Feeds 3 or 4 hungry campers for dinner, or 2 with leftovers for hash the next morning.
5 Tbsp juniper berries
2 Tbsp black pepper
2 Tbsp sea salt
6 gloves garlic
Crush ingredients together on a flat river rock or in a molcajete or marble mortar and pestle.
Photo by Ian Harris