Rioja-Roasted Lamb

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Spanish wine is the star of the show in this roasted lamb recipe from chef Frank McClelland. Rioja makes it rich and robust, while the multitude of seasonings enhances the earthiness of the meat. The recipe calls for dried chickpeas to achieve full flavor saturation, but if you’re short on time, the canned kind will do. Whichever legume you choose, serve the Mediterranean-esque dish over mashed potatoes or couscous for maximum enjoyment.


  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon piment d’Espelette or ground sweet pimiento pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 lamb shanks (about 2 pounds total)
  • 4 slices smoked bacon, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, peeled and diced
  • 1 bottle Rioja
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 head escarole, chopped
  • 2 roasted red peppers
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine the oregano, dried thyme, piment d’Espelette, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Place the lamb shanks in the bowl and rub them evenly with the spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  2. Remove the shanks from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  3. Place a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the shanks. Sear until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover, add the wine, and bring to a simmer. Add the broth, fresh thyme, bay leaf, and oregano and bring back to a simmer.
  4. Cover and roast the lamb in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, add the chickpeas, and return to the oven for 30 more minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the olives, escarole, and red peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

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