Fall Lamb Ragu
It’s been a busy month. When I resurfaced last weekend, the weather had turned to fall and my garden had turned to something out of Lord of the Flies.
As a fellow gardener put it brilliantly in The New York Times last week, “Unfortunately I hadn’t picked those tomatoes from an idealized vegetable plot, but from my all-too-real garden. Step over the fence with me and have a look. Where are all the tomato leaves, you ask? They turned black and fell off, like a thumbnail that’s been struck by a hammer. See that peculiar, spiky stalk — the one that stands chest-high? It’s lettuce that has gone feral in the August heat. If it makes a move at you, shoot it.”
And where had the sun gone? A chilly, persistent drizzle foretold an imminent end to flip-flop season. But though I resent New York winter from the depths of my southern Californian heart, I couldn’t help but welcome the first fall dinner. There’s something lovely about a bubbling pot of sauce and spice, warming the house with the smell of cinnamon, sage and cloves.
This recipe used all the herbs running rampant in my garden – basil, sage, and rosemary – but you could easily swap in any you have on hand. And it couldn’t be easier: brown the meat, pour in the tomatoes, wine and spices, and simmer until the meat falls apart. I let mine reduce for two hours, but if you can resist the herbs’ entreaties for longer, the meat only grows more tender. And the next day, we threw the spice-soaked lamb on fresh baguettes, and enjoyed it all over again.
by Kara Zuaro: I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds lamb meat cut for stew (the original recipe called for boneless wild boar)
1 can chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3 dried chili peppers, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
3 sun-dried tomatoes
3 anchovies or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Fresh or dried oregano, basil, and sage
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pasta (pappardelle or fettuccine)
Grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese
In a large cast-iron pot, sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add the meat and brown. (That is, cook the meat over high heat, turning frequently, just until it’s cooked on the outside.)
Add the canned tomatoes, bay leaves, and wine. Gradually add the garlic, dried chili, cinnamon stick, cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies (or anchovy paste), oregano, basil, sage, red wine vinegar, and salt and black pepper to taste.
Simmer on low on the stovetop with the lid of the pot slightly ajar, and stir occasionally for at least two hours — or longer if possible. The longer you simmer this, the more tender the meat will become. The ragù is ready to eat when the meat has totally fallen apart and most of the liquid has been absorbed by the meat. Take out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves before serving.
Serve over the pasta and top with more fresh herbs and grated cheese. Accompany with some crusty peasant bread and a good red wine, preferably a strong Italian, like Amarone or Barolo.