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Egyptian Beef Shanks

April 02, 2021
Photo: Justin CovingtonPhoto: Justin Covington

Ashank bone, or zeroa, is included on the Seder plate at Passover to represent the offering in the Temple when God commanded each Jewish family to sacrifice and eat a 1-year-old lamb. But shanks can also appear at the Seder on dinner plates, as part of the festive meal.

Many years ago at a Seder, I ate a delicious Egyptian dish made with veal shanks, lemons, and artichokes. These days, fewer people eat veal, for humane reasons. But the same dish can be made with lamb or beef shanks, and it’s perfect for a Seder meal. And although many observant Jews do not eat roasted lamb at the Seder, they may eat meat that has been braised or stewed.

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  • 8whole fresh artichokes or frozen artichoke bottoms
  • 3lemons
  • 4pounds beef, lamb, or veal shanks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1teaspoon turmeric
  • 1teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2-3cloves garlic
Yield: Serves 8


  • Step 1

    Remove the outer leaves of the artichokes and pull out the hairy center (you can use your hands remove the leaves and a grapefruit spoon works well to remove the center).

  • Step 2

    Cut the artichoke hearts in quarters and put into a small bowl of cold water. Cover with 1 lemon, cut into quarters.

  • Step 3

    Season the shanks with salt, pepper, turmeric and cumin. In a Dutch oven or similar pan with a cover, heat 1/4 cup of the oil. When the oil is hot, brown the shanks on all sides, then sprinkle with half the parsley. Fill the pan halfway with water, bring to a boil, and simmer covered for about 2 hours, until almost fork-tender.

  • Step 4

    Cool, and then separate the bones from the shanks. Using a sharp knife, cut the meat into 1-inch pieces and return to the pan.

  • Step 5

    Meanwhile, pour the bowl of artichokes, lemon, and water into a small saucepan. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, garlic, and 1 more lemon cut into quarters. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the artichokes are tender but not soft. You can do the preparation up to this point a day ahead.

  • Step 6

    Pour the artichokes and their sauce on top of the meat. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for another 20 or 30 minutes until the meat is fork-tender and the artichokes al dente.

  • Step 7

    Serve with the third lemon, cut into quarters and juice squeezed over the meat.