Saturday, February 1, 2014
Lamb & chickpea ragu
When a person works very hard, and for many hours, solely to produce a product that will make me happy, well, the least that I can do is cook the poor woman some dinner.
Shyster Jersey Lawyer Friend went above and beyond this past Christmas. Way, way, way above and beyond. She showed up at the house one day with a box big enough to accommodate a goose down parka. Except that it was packed with Sicilian fig cookies!
If you know these cookies (cucidati as they are known in Italy) then you appreciate how much work goes into making them. Most people make sure to have plenty of helping hands around on "cucidati day," but Shy went it alone. Which explains the note that accompanied her extraordinary gift: "I love you Meatball," it said. "But never again!!!"
And so when my friend came over for dinner the other evening I made certain to prepare a meal that incorporated some of her very favorites: lamb, chickpeas, and homemade pasta.
This is around 1.5 pounds of well-trimmed lamb shoulder, which I've cut into cubes and liberally seasoned with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Lightly dredge the seasoned lamb in all-purpose flour.
In a medium size dutch oven sear the lamb in a good amount of olive oil, then remove to a plate and set aside.
Add 1.5 cups of a good quality red wine (I used an inexpensive Nero d'Avola). Turn the heat up to high and reduce until much of the wine has evaporated and what's left of the liquid is somewhat thickened.
Add 3 tablespoons of butter.
Add 2 chopped celery stalks, 4 chopped carrots, 1 chopped large onion, 6 chopped garlic cloves, and a healthy dose of fresh rosemary and thyme.
After the vegetables have softened stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste.
Then add 4 cups of chicken stock.
Return the lamb to the pot, stir it into the liquid, and simmer slowly, not at a rapid boil.
Around 30 minutes after adding the lamb toss in a (drained) 15-ounce can of chickpeas, and continue to simmer slowly for another hour (making the total simmering time around 90 minutes). Season to taste.
Some people may choose to skip the addition of chickpeas. If you are among those, rest assured that the ragu is just fine without them, and with no furher changes to the recipe.
Personally, I really like having the chickpeas in there. Shy seemed to enjoy them as well. Which, on this particular evening, was all that really mattered to me.
Wonder if it'll help score me some more fig cookies next Christmas.