Thursday, October 25, 2012

Braised lamb with buckwheat pasta

                 This dish is about as "comfort food" as it gets. It's like meat & potatoes without the potatoes. It's really simple, but if you make every thing from scratch it's pure love on a plate. With a dish as simple this, fresh pasta noodles make all the difference. I posted the recipe for how to make the buckwheat pasta last month - you can find the recipe here

         This recipe is based on a dish that fellow Top Chef Canada alumni Dusty Gallagher made for me when I visited his restaurant in Toronto. I liked it so much that I've since made it at home a couple times (to rave reviews) so I decided to share the recipe here. Each time, I've braised the lamb specifically with this dish in mind, but this is also something you could make if you just happen to have some leftovers in the fridge that need to get used up. You might want to try my recipe for braised lamb shank first, just so that you can make this pasta with the leftovers. Leftover beef bourguinon makes a killer pasta too.      

                 Because you will be shredding the meat after it's cooked, you can use any cut of lamb that braises well. I bought leg of lamb because that's what happened to be on special at my local supermarket. If you see packages of cubed lamb, those should work perfectly well because chances are they were cut from the shoulder or rump, which are both great cuts for braising. Look for meat that has a good amount of fat and connective tissue left on it because that will melt down and keep the meat tender and juicy.  

Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 3 hours Serves 4


250g fresh buckwheat pasta

600g fresh lamb (shoulder, leg or rump)
2 carrots, peeled & roughly chopped
1 large onion, peeled & roughly chopped
1 head garlic
1/2 bunch fresh sage
2 cups red wine
1 tbs corn starch
4 tbs vegetable oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the to 350F

1. Heat 2 tbs vegetable oil on medium heat in a large pot or cast iron dutch oven and sautée the carrots & onions until they are nicely browned. Cut the head of garlic in half and then press the exposed cloves down against the bottom of the pot to brown them a little. Deglaze with 2 tbs red wine. Use a wooded spoon to scrap up any brown bit stuck to the bottom of the pan.

2. While the vegetables are browning, brown the lamb in a separate pan. Generously season the lamb with salt & pepper. Heat 2 tbs of oil in a frying pan on high heat and sear the lamb on all sides until it is nicely browned. Deglaze with 2 tbs red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the meat to the pot with the vegetables. 

3. Add 1/2 of the fresh sage to the pot and the remaining red wine, then add water until all the ingredients are covered. Bring the water to a gentle simmer, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook at 350F until the lamb is tender and easily breaks apart with a fork, about 3 hours. 

4. When the lamb is ready, stain the cooking liquid into a large frying pan or shallow wide-bottomed pot. Discard the vegetables - their job is done, all their flavour has been infused into the meat and sauce. Place the meat in the frying pan and use a fork or wooden spoon to break up the meat into chunks. Mix 1 tbs corn starch with 2 tbs cold water and then pour the mix into the sauce. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce until the sauce is just thick enough to start coating the meat, about 5 minutes. 

5.   Bring a large amount of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until it is al-dente - 6 minutes for fresh pasta. Strain the noodles and then toss them in the pan with the meat & sauce. Simmer the noodles with the sauce for 1 minute and then serve. Garnish each plate with some freshly chopped sage. 


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