These first few days of 2012 have felt like a big stretch and yawn as I wake from my holiday hibernation. The week between Christmas and the New Year was full of long restful days. Casual celebrations with family and friends and entire afternoons of reading books and watching movies – the perfect setting to let dinner slowly stew on the stove until you’re ready to gather at the table.
I made a Christmas Eve feast of a mustard-rubbed pork loin, potato pancakes and braised red cabbage. While I focused on making pancakes and prepping the roast, the cabbage slowly cooked down into a savory balance of sweet and sour. Even my dad, the pickiest eater on the planet, couldn’t get enough of it.
After the Christmas dust settled, when Brad and I finally found ourselves alone on a cold day with no plans, I set out to make some stewed lamb. It simmered gently with spices until a few hours later when I served the tender and flavorful meat with some simple roasted squash and couscous.
Slow Spiced Lamb
- 2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 1.5-inch chunks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 dried hot chili, crumbled
- 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
- 3 cups stock or broth
- 6 pieces lemon peel (from 1 lemon)
- Salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
Pat lamb dry and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a wide 5-to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown lamb on all sides in 3 batches until golden-brown, 4 to 5 minutes per batch, transferring to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Add onions to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, spices and chili, and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and cook, scraping up brown bits, until vinegar has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
Return lamb with meat juices to pot. Stir in stock and lemon peel and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 1 1/2 hours until the lamb is extremely tender. Uncover and increase heat to high, allowing the liquid to boil and thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, add juice from lemon, and serve with couscous or rice, garnished with a bit of chopped parsley.
Happy 2012! Winter is here and it’s cold outside, so what’s the hurry? Praise the braise and cook slow and low.