Curried Lamb with Squash

February 3, 2010  •  Meat & Poultry

I was reading today in a culinary report about a trend towards comfort foods and the use of “lesser” cuts of meat as I was thawing several of those on the counter. The biggest surprise to me since buying my meat directly from farmers and ranchers is just how fabulous those lesser cuts of meat can be, when prepared properly. This is one of those dishes.I don’t know why I’ve been on this stew and soup kick lately – maybe it’s just winter hibernation, or maybe I just love the smell of the dish cooking slowly in the oven, knowing it’s heating my room and I don’t need to turn the heat up to stay warm. Anything curry to me just smells divine!I’ve been enjoyed the wonderfully mild and tender lamb from Monroe Organic Farms and upon searching in my meat freezer today, discovered I was left with one (badly butchered) shank, some riblets (never hear of those, not much meat on them), and the neck bones (kind of misleading as they are full of meat – glad I asked the butcher to include them).As RR would say, “into the pool” – or in this case a Dutch oven – with just a little olive oil in the pan to help them start browning, seasoned well with salt and pepper.You want to get all of the raw edges really nice and brown. I like tongs best for turning the meat around to make sure it’s all nicely caramelized.When it looks browned, remove it to a plate while you add the onions (I’m using leeks here primarily because I have bags of them from the farm’s winter harvest that I need to use up). See that browned stuff on the bottom of the pan? You want the onions (leeks) to release some of their liquid so you can deglaze the pan, picking up all of these bits.Then the meat goes back into the pan along with stock and coconut milk. I’m trying desperately (and not very successfully I might add) to drop a few pounds before I head to Italy, so I used the light version, but you can use either. Bring it to a boil, covered, then transfer to the oven to slow cook for a few hours.While the meat is braising, get the squash ready. It’s easiest to peel butternut squash if you first cut a small amount from the bottom so it sits flat…Then use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to peel it from top to bottom.Fiinally, use a metal spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds……and then dice up enough to yield about 3-4 cups. You’ll see that I only peeled and diced half of the squash – I put the other half in the oven to cook while the lamb cooked and will be making butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce tomorrow, so check back for that!After the meat is so tender that it falls completely from the bone like this, pull the meat out, let it cool a bit, then pick off the meat……and return it to the pot along with cubed butternut squash (or cubed potatoes, or green peas, or whatever you like). I also added two hot dried red chiles for heat, which I left whole and removed before serving. (I wanted more heat at the end so stirred in a little bit of red curry paste as well.)Add just a sprinkle of mint or parsley and then serve this over rice, couscous, or anything else (I had cooked barley) that you’ve got a craving for! (Dog Owners: Did you know turmeric for dogs offers many health benefits? Save your leftover turmeric from your curried lamb to add to your pup’s food!)

Lamb Curry with Squash
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 pounds lamb, bone in (shoulder, neck, chops, ribs)
salt and pepper
1 large onion, diced (or 2 cups dice leeks)
1 cup chicken stock
30 ounces coconut milk, light or regular
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 cups butternut squash, cubed small
2 chile de arbol, dried hot peppers
2 tablespoons mint, or parsley, minced

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper and sear well on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove lamb to a platter and let sit while cooking the onions or leeks over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until slightly softened. Return lamb and any juices (separate and discard fat if desired) to the pot, add stock, coconut milk and spices. Cover and bring to a boil. Transfer to a 300 degree oven and cook for 3 hours or until meat is tender and falling from the bone.

Remove from oven and remove lamb to a cutting board to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pick meat from bones, discarding bones and any gristle, and shred meat. Skim off any fat from the cooking liquid and discard, then return shredded meat to the cooking liquid along with squash and chiles and return to oven until squash is tender, about 30-45 minutes. Stir in mint or parsley just before serving over couscous, rice, or barley.


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