by Diane Rossen Worthington
This cold-weather entrée features dates, fresh ginger, pungent spices such as cumin and coriander, and zinfandel -- reminiscent of an exotic Middle Eastern lamb stew. You can make it two days ahead of time; in fact, it will taste even better if you do, as the flavors have time to meld. Both the stew and the cooking vessel such recipes traditionally cook in are known as a tagine. Luckily for you, it's not necessary to buy a clay tagine -- you can just use a Dutch oven.
Dates offer a unique, sweet flavor. What do they taste like? I guess I would describe them as a cross between a prune and a fig, but they really have a unique flavor, and each variety has its own characteristics. Even though they are dried, it's best to keep the dates refrigerated to retain some moisture. There are many date varieties but I am partial to the Medjool for its sweet, soft, creamy flesh.
I use boneless, cut-up leg of lamb here, but you could also use lamb shoulder. The shoulder is much less expensive, but you have to cut away the bones and some of the fat before you brown it. Remember not to crowd the meat when you brown it; otherwise the meat will steam and not brown. Browning helps enrich the sauce. Feel free to personalize this dish with some pitted green olives, rinsed cooked chickpeas, or even some fresh spinach leaves. If you like, you like you could sprinkle some toasted almonds on top as a garnish.
Serve this slightly sweet, aromatic stew on a chilly night along with couscous. It would also be a good Sunday lunch choice. To drink? Try a fruity Zinfandel that you are using in the dish. Zinfandels from the
Lamb Stew with Dates and Zinfandel Recipe
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, but into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup red wine like Zinfandel
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup pitted, chopped dates, Medjool preferred
Juice and grated zest of an orange
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in large ovenproof casserole over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté another 3 minutes or until slightly softened. Transfer to a side bowl and set aside.
2. Pat the meat dry. Place the flour in a lock-top plastic bag and add salt and pepper. Shake it. Place the lamb in the bag and seal it. Shake the bag around until the lamb is lightly coated with the flour.
3. Add 2 more tablespoons of the oil to the casserole on medium high heat. Add half of the meat and brown on all sides, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the meat to the vegetables as it browns. Add the remaining oil, if necessary and brown the remaining meat. Return the onion-meat mixture to the casserole.
4. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander and ginger, and stir to coat the meat and vegetables, about 1 minute. Add the wine, broth and tomatoes to the casserole and bring to boil, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the dates, orange zest and juice, and bring to a boil on high heat.
5. Cover casserole, place in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
6. If the sauce is very thin, remove meat and vegetables with slotted spoon and boil sauce to thicken it. Return meat and vegetables to casserole. Taste for seasoning. Place in a serving bowl and garnish with fresh parsley and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Advance Preparation: This may be prepared completely up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently. Taste for seasoning just before serving.
Lamb Stew Recipe, Middle Eastern Cuisine