Saturday, February 28, 2009

The money shot: Spanish Lamb and Chorizo Stew

You know you need that money shot in your repertoire. That one thing you know will work? Like Kobe posting up another hapless Laker's opponent. Like Emeril who used to hold up a piece of f*cking garlic and have his sycophantic audience go berserk like he's splitting atoms. Like any bartender in America looking for a huge tip asking me if I want a free drink. That sort of thing. Such was dinner the other night in the 50th Avenue kitchen.

This is something I've done for a couple of dinner parties to great appreciation. This time it was by accident, as the frost covered package I pulled out of the freezer turned out not to be the expected pork shoulder, but instead had somehow, against all laws of nature, turned into a lamb shoulder. I have no idea how these things happen , but in the whole spirit of lemons to lemonade, when I'm handed a three pound hunk of lamb shoulder I'm become one braisy motherf*cker. Also this wasn't for a dinner party, as it was just wand I and our meager appetites....well, her meager appetite and my overfed one. So needless to say this was also dinner the next night and lunch at work for a couple of days.

In any event, this Spanish inflected braised lamb shoulder from the Dean and DeLuca Cookbook (a money shot of a cookbook if ever there was one!) is something you need to throw into your dutch oven at home....soon! The chorizo and smoked paprika add such intense, smoky, spicy flavor and character and that Iberian something-something that makes me dream of dark cafés and bottles of Rioja in an Andalucian village. In fact the DandD book recommended a Rioja as the perfect beverage accompaniment, and they were absolutely right. This is absolutely The only thing you may need to order ahead is the lamb shoulder, as they are sometimes hard to find. But it's worth the effort, as this is one swoon-worthy dish!
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Spanish Lamb Stew with White Beans and Chorizo
From the Dean and DeLuca Cookbook

serves six....or more

6 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound Spanish chorizo
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2-1/2 to 3 pound lamb shoulder, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 cup rich beef stock (I took 2 cups regular beef broth and boiled it down to 1 cup-bb)
14 ounce can plum tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste
2 15 oz cans white beans

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over moderately high heat. Add chorizo and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onions and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes more. Remove contents of pan and set aside.
The flavoring agents: smoky spanish chorizo and onions working it.
2. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to pan and heat until hot but not smoking. Add lamb cubes and cook until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. (Make sure the pan is not overcrowded; if it is, brown the lamb in batches.)
Browning the lamb to seal in deliciousness.
3. When all the lamb is browned, place chorizo-onion-garlic mixture back in pan. Increase heat to high, and add red wine and sherry vinegar. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any caramelized bits. Then, add beef stock and plum tomatoes with their juice. Stir, breaking up the tomatoes with the wooden spoon. Add bay leaves and paprika. If using marjoram, add half of it now. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ready for the oven, and it already looks so good!
4. Bring the liquid slowly to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and partially cover. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove the lid, and simmer another 45 minutes, or until lamb is extremely tender. Remove bay leaves.
Out of the oven, ready for consumption!
5. Add white beans to stew, and stir to combine. Cook over low heat until beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve. If using marjoram, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons just before serving.

Notes from DandD: "The boneless lamb in this delicious cassoulet-like stew makes for polite knife-and-fork eating. This dish tastes best when eaten right after cooking; it will not improve in the refrigerator, as many other stews do. Serve with a green salad and a good bottle of red Rioja."

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