What do you do with a lamb shoulder roast that has been in the freezer for over a year? Well, once you get done praying that it's still good and not covered in freezer burn, you thaw out that SOB, find out that it is still perfectly fresh (whew), and braise it into savory perfection following this great recipe adapted from epicurious. In this Month of the New Recipes, this is absolutely a keeper. Dinner party worthy even. The lamb came out perfectly tender with just the right chew. The sauce was fantastic, rich, with a Middle Eastern feel from the lemon and figs, and perfectly set off by the tangy, minty yogurt sauce. Really delicious!
When you make this at home, find the best lamb you possibly can. Hopefully pasture raised, because in dishes like this the quality of the meat is so important. With all the other flavors happening around it....lemon, fig, saffron, & other spices....you don't want a too lamb-ey flavor dominating. As it turned out for us, it was a perfectly balanced dinner, served alongside some cous cous, and is one of those showoff meals that your guests will rave about. For wine I would recommend a big southern French red from the Rhone Valley or Languedoc. A California zin would also have the requisite up front fruit and body. Either way, pop those corks and grab your forks!
Lamb Stew with Lemon and Figs
adapted from epicurious.com
makes 6 servings.
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
2 onions (about 1 pound), thinly sliced
1 small lemon (preferably Meyer), ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 rounded teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup dried figs, stems trimmed, quartered lengthwise (about 4 ounces)
2 1/2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
Transfer yogurt to small bowl. Stir in mint; season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.)
Place 1/2 cup warm water and saffron in small bowl; let stand at least 20 minutes to infuse.
Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook lamb until brown on all sides, adding more oil as needed, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to large bowl. Pour all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot (or add 1 tablespoon oil if dry); heat pot over medium heat. Add onions; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add lemon, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne. Stir 1 minute. Add saffron mixture; stir, scraping up browned bits. Add tomatoes with juice, figs, and lamb with any juices to pot. Stir to coat. Add 2 1/2 cups broth.
Bring stew to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed if dry, about 1 1/2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and chill.)
Bring stew to simmer, thinning with more chicken broth if necessary. Divide stew among 6 plates; top each serving with dollop of minted yogurt.