Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forty Dollar Lamb

If you have 40 days and 40 nights to spare, try making this meal.

I exaggerate a little. It is mostly done in a slow cooker. And if you can chop even a little, you can make this delicious, perhaps, even, heavenly lamb tagine. Or stew. Or curry. Stewgine. Well, I combined a fruit tagine heavy on curry powder and a classic tomato and pepper stew recipe together because I could not decide between them, so I am not sure what to call it. I was thinking Miracle Manger Tagine, but Forty Dollar Lamb sounds good too, as you could easily charge that in a restaurant if your table cloth is white enough and well starched and you have a maitre-de with the proper upward tilt to his disdainful and superior chin. I left everything big, because that is a more classic slow cooker feel to me. I thought this collision of flavors would jump and jive well, but it could have fallen on its face and not shocked me. You will need:

1.5 lbs lamb stew meat or shoulder roast
4 potatoes (I used red and left skin on)
4 large carrots
1 green tart apple (leave the skin on)
1 unripe green banana
8-12 oz cut green beans
1/2 can coconut milk
1/2 can tomato sauce (plain)
4-6 mint leaves (fresh if possible, or try peppermint extract, or failing even that, anise extract)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cardamom
1.5 tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic minced
1 diced tomato, or 1/4 can diced tomato
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
Medium to large slow cooker

Quinoa, cous-cous, rice or barley

Lamb is an excellent meat to work with in today's meat world, because it is not eaten enough to get the full fast-food treatment and have its life streamlined to a short, sad, scary efficiency. The flesh is full of flavor that rolls around all over your tongue, and it melts and still has fat in it. Imagine that: marbling! Beef gets worse all the time. Any slow foodist knows it. Chicken is too disgusting to think about and turkey can be worked with, but only if you hit yourself in the head with a mallet or the bottom half of a bottle of kalua first. You don't want to know what percentage of chicken can be feces legally by weight and volume. Oh wait, I think I told you once already in a blog.

Start by braising or searing your lamb. Use your slow cooker if you have a high setting, by chopping your meat and putting it in along the bottom, alone and dry. Let it brown, but not char. You will want the contrast of well-done lamb in this curry stew. While that starts, chop your vegetables. Use all the fat, it will melt into the body. Don't trim lamb. If a person complains the meat is fatty, they shouldn't be eating lamb. The fat will not be chewy like with some other meats and is part of the delicacy of lamb.

Once your meat is brown and mostly cooked, put in your potatoes and carrots, and coconut milk and tomato sauce. Let go on low for 2 hours or so. Then add your apples, green beans, spices and seasonings, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, and butter. Let it go another 2 hours or so. Check on the vegetables for desired tenderness with a fork. The butter is optional at any point as a thickener if you need it. Slice half your banana as a last step and put it in for just a half hour at most.

Boil the grain of your choice and put the lamb and vegetables and sauce over it. I used quinoa, and they went very well together. This was one of the best things I have eaten in a long time. One of my favorite dishes. I think a gourmet would have a hard time identifying all the flavors but would approve heartily. It was excellent, delicious, and mouth watering. It would have been perfect had I not put my apples in so early and made them mushy. I corrected that above and suggested to not add them with the potatoes and carrots as I did. Mesmerizing. And if you think I am merely tooting my own horn, try to find other such words in my previous posts. Or ask Camila. Pretty good on my scale is a darn fine compliment. If I tell you your dish is very good, it probably means you should expect me to have diverted a parade route through your bedroom by tomorrow morning.

The above recipe will feed 6 people one full size portion each, unless they are pigs. Though that will leave them wanting more. You could satisfy 4 without a dessert. It does not recapture everything with reheating.

And now for dessert:

Apple Pear Raspberry Granola Crunch

You need:

3 apples (any variety: skin them only if you want to. May I suggest zebra tanning them? That's half skinning)
2 pears (skin them)
1.5 cups apple-raspberry granola or as close to that as you can arrange
1/2 cup whole oats
1.5 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
touch of lemon juice
8X11 casserole dish

You can reduce your sugar usage a lot by substituting vanilla. This almost qualifies as a health dish, but will be sweet enough for any tooth with some vanilla ice cream on top.

Grease your dish, slice your apples and pears, toss them in a big bowl with everything else. Pour it into the cassarole and smooth and flatten it as you can. You could try a bit of corn syrup if you want it to stick together like bars, but it should hold somewhat together after baking. Use the vanilla and spices to smell: if it smells delicious while you are tossing it, then they are probably right. If your mouth is not watering, shake in a bit more of whatever you fancy. Its hard to overdue vanilla, though a little goes a long way. Cinnamon also. Hold your nutmeg as large doses cause a) nausea, and b) peyote-like hallucinations, and c) vomiting after the visions. Or if you want to have a really interesting game of Pictionary after dessert...

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