Serves: 2 people

Preparation & Cooking Time: 2 hours, 45 mins

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.

Recipe adapted from &

  • 2 (or 4) lamb shanks
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 dried ancho chiles*, stemmed and seeded
  • 600ml orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Sprinkle lamb shanks generously with Kosher salt. Heat oil in a heavy, large pot over medium-high heat and sear lamb shanks (in batches if necessary) on all sides until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove shanks and set aside.
  2. Lower heat to medium low and add garlic and ancho chiles. Stir constantly until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add orange juice, oregano, vinegar, salt, cumin, ancho chile powder, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Using an immersion blender (or letting adobo mixture cool slightly and then carefully transferring mixture to a regular blender), puree until very smooth. Add adobo sauce back to pot and nestle lamb shanks in sauce in a single layer. Lamb shanks should be covered at least half way with sauce, so add some water if needed (I didn’t need it, but it depends upon the size of your pot).
  4. Cover the pot with a lid and cook in oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven, turn lamb shanks, and cook for 1 additional hour without the lid. If meat is very tender at this point, it’s done! If not, allow to cook for an additional 30-60 minutes.
  5. Transfer braised lamb shanks to a platter and top with adobo sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with Cheddar Jalapeno Polenta (recipe and method here.