Photo: Annabelle Breakey; Styling: Randy Mon
Total Time
2 Hours 45 Mins
Serves 4

Time: 2 3/4 hours. Jeff Smedstad, chef-owner of Elote Cafe in Sedona, Arizona, learned the secrets to great adobos (a type of chile-rich sauce) in the markets of central Mexico. This lamb dish is adapted from one in his new book, Elote Cafe Cookbook.

How to Make It

Step 1

Make adobo: In a dry, heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, roast garlic, turning occasionally, until softened and speckled brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Add chiles to pan and toast, turning once, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, taking care not to let them burn.

Step 2

Carefully pour orange juice into pan. Add remaining adobo ingredients, then peel garlic and add to pan. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chiles are softened, about 10 minutes.

Step 3

Lift out canela and bay leaves and reserve. Cool adobo slightly, then purée in a blender until very smooth.

Step 4

Preheat oven to 325°. Prepare lamb: Sprinkle shanks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy, large pot over medium-high heat, then brown 2 shanks at a time, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes per batch. As shanks are browned, transfer to a 9- by 13-in. baking dish.

Step 5

Discard fat from pot, then add adobo and reserved seasonings and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring. Pour over shanks. If needed, add hot water so liquid comes halfway up shanks. Seal dish with foil. Bake, turning shanks every hour, until meat is very tender when pierced, 2 hours.

Step 6

Transfer shanks to a platter; cover with foil. Pour adobo into a saucepan. Skim and discard fat. Boil over medium-high heat until thick enough to coat meat, about 10 minutes. Uncover shanks, pour sauce on top, and sprinkle with onion and cilantro.

Step 7

*Find in the Latino foods aisle or spice aisle of a supermarket, or at a Latino market.

Step 8

Make ahead: Through step 5; chill, covered, up to 1 day. To continue, reheat about 1 1/2 hours at 325°.

Step 9

Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.

Ratings & Reviews

RoswellOddie's Review

October 26, 2012
This recipe is worth all of the work it takes to get it to the table! We have friends that grew up on a sheep ranch in New Mexico and this recipe just blows them away. This is the southwest at its best!

Nita1308's Review

April 23, 2012

piacere's Review

November 03, 2009
My hubby and I have a bendable "rule" in our kitchen that the first time we try a recipe we stick to the recipe. And we have a pet peeve of reviewers who provide reviews but then go on to describe all the things they changed in the recipe so that it really wasn't at all as published. That said, we give this recipe an enthusiastic five stars in spite of the fact that we made a change. That is rather than use lamb shanks we started with a lamb shoulder roast of about 3 pounds and trimmed it well to remove fat and ended up with about 2 1/2 pounds of lamb stew meat to make this as a stew and not shanks. It was delicious, the adobo sauce recipe is really, really good. Maybe it was the difference between using shanks and the shoulder stew meat, but we found we did not need to do the last recipe step to thicken the sauce, it was just right for thickness, and we also had virtually no fat on he sauce to be removed. Easy to make and definitely a "keeper". Added bonus, the house smelled wonderful from toasting the chiles through braising the lamb. A good make ahead and reheat dish.

obkook's Review

October 18, 2009
With some trepidation I poured a quart of orange juice over some perfectly fine lamb shanks, but to our delight, it came out perfect! The cumin and chipotle came through nicely, and the lamb literally fell off the bone. It's a really nice presentation as well. I'll definitely do this dish again for company or just family.