A Lamby Labor Day

Happy belated Labor Day! I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend. Work (bless them) closed the office Friday so we could have a four-day weekend, and I cannot tell you how happy that made me. For once, I had no plans – I wasn’t going anywhere, or doing anything, beyond celebrating my mom’s milestone birthday. (Hi Mom!)

This lack of plans let me do whatever I felt like – and blissfully, that meant LOTS of cooking. I made pomegranate-braised lamb; three-berry crisp for the birthday; and apple-blackberry crisp.

I’ve not worked with lamb before, and it was an experience, for sure. Little did I expect that it would smell like corned beef while cooking (identity crisis, perhaps?), and since I used a lamb shoulder (or some such cut) rather than the lamb shanks the original recipe called for, it didn’t cook quite evenly: one side was tougher than the other. But, for my first attempt at making lamb, who am I to complain? I still ate and enjoyed.

Pomegranate-merlot braised lamb shanks
Pomegranate-merlot braised lamb shanks

I also don’t think I’ve mentioned my utter obsession with couscous. It’s not something I routinely ate growing up (whether due to its close resemblance to tabbouleh, which I detested as a child, or something else altogether); regardless, I stumbled upon it via a Real Simple recipe and voila! An obsession was born.

This particular recipe is adapted from and courtesy of the seasonal Williams-Sonoma magazine; I got it in the last issue and noticed it’s still featured in the newly-released early fall catalogue.

[recipe title=”Pomegranate-merlot braised lamb shanks”]
Ingredients:
4 1/2 lb. lamb shoulder (try with lamb shanks as the original recipe suggests for a more even cooking procedure)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 Tb. each minced garlic and tomato paste
1 tsp. each chopped fresh thyme, ground cinnamon and cumin
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 bay leaf
1 c. each Merlot (i.e. Red Diamond 2011 – something you can serve with the finished dish) and pomegranate juice
2 Tbs. honey
1 c. chicken broth
6 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 c. pomegranate seeds, optional
Cooked whole-wheat garlic and olive-oil couscous for serving

Directions:
1. Season lamb with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan, heat 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Brown lamb.

Transfer to slow cooker. Lightly wipe interior of pan to remove most (not all) grease.

2. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in pan. Add the onion and cook until tender while stirring occasionally, 7-8 minutes.

Add the garlic, tomato paste, thyme, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and bay leaf. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the wine and pomegranate juice. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the honey, broth, salt, and pepper, and pour all contents into slow cooker.

3. Cover; cook on high for 2.5 hours. Add the carrots; cook about 1 hour more, or until the lamb is tender. Transfer the meat and carrots to a large platter. Pour the sauce into saucepan and skim off any fat. Bring to a boil over high heat, allowing liquid to thicken, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. Pour sauce over lamb. Garnish with parsley and pomegranate seeds. Serve with the couscous.
[/recipe]

This also makes GREAT leftovers, like as a sandwich for lunch. Give it a shot with some mayo and mustard.

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  1. The merlot and pomegranate juice sounds amazing. I’ve been too afraid to try to make lamb – it seems so daunting! But I guess I’ll never know until I try. I see you’re going to IFBC later this month… hope to meet you there!

    1. Yay, I’m glad! It was an adventure for me too – I’ve not done ANYthing with lamb before. 🙂 I enjoyed and would totally do lamb again. Ground lamb is an easy one to start with as you can swap beef out for it.

      Yes, I’ll be at IFBC – would love to meet you! Let’s definitely arrange something.

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