One of my favorite winter dinners is a warm, satisfying bowl of stew. And I'm not alone; if you think about it, each nationality has its own version of meat and vegetables simmered in one big pot, whether it's classic Irish beef stew or French beef bourguignonne or Texas chili. One night I came across a recipe for Moroccan lamb tagine in, of all places, an Australian cookbook called Bills Sydney Food. I was feeling adventurous and decided to play around with my own version of it using lamb shanks, Yukon Gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and lots of Eastern spices. I can't think of a more delicious, comforting dinner to serve to family or friends on a cold night. And the best part is that you can make the entire pot a day ahead of time, refrigerate it and just reheat it slowly on top of the stove. All you'll need to make that night is some couscous!
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a very large (12-to-13-inch) pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Pat the lamb shanks dry with paper towels. In batches, add the lamb shanks to the pot and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes on each side, until they are nicely browned. Transfer to a plate and brown the remaining shanks, adding a little more oil, if necessary. Transfer all the shanks to the plate and set aside.
Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more oil, if necessary. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for just 30 seconds. Add the chili powder, turmeric, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon and cook for one minute. Stir in the tomatoes and their liquid, the chicken stock, brown sugar, lime, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the potatoes, butternut squash and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Place the lamb shanks in the pot, spooning some of the sauce and vegetables over the shanks. (They will not be completely submerged.) Cover the pot and bake for 3 hours, until the lamb shanks are very tender. Serve hot with couscous.
Ask your butcher for small lamb shanks, which are from the front legs, rather than the large rear ones.
Make-Ahead Plan: Assemble the dish and bake, then refrigerate overnight; reheat on the stove before serving.