Friday, February 25, 2011

Shallow-Braised Lamb Steaks with Red Wine Reduction

My mother used to cook pork shoulder steaks with a method similar to this. It results in a tender, juicy cut of meat with a small amount of rich sauce. It also needs a bit of babysitting to make sure the liquid doesn't cook out, depending on the cooking vessel you use.

If you've got a tagine, it's perfect for cooking this way, since you're just about forced to use very low heat and very little liquid, but mom did quite well with a beat-up frying pan.

With a tagine, you often end up with more liquid when you're done cooking than what you started with, which seems impossible. A dutch oven or any heavy-bottomed pot with a tight lid works just as well for this recipe, though. It's not the equipment, but the cooking method that's important. The key is very, very very low heat. A bare simmer, and no more. It takes a long time to cook, but I think the results are well worth it.

Instead of pork shoulder steaks that were mom's signature dish, I used lamb steaks. These go by different names from different purveyors, and they can look a little different as well, but what you're looking for are the tougher/fattier cuts of lamb rather that the rib or t-bone chops that are meant to be cooked to that perfect medium rare. Lamb shanks, neck bones, or other stew-worthy cuts of lamb would work just as well.

The wine in the recipe is used both for braising the the lamb and for making a sauce to drizzle over the top. The cherries add a nice tartness to the braise, while the tepin peppers add a bit of heat to the sweeter wine reduction. It balances nicely.

The amount of tepin pepper added here doesn't result in a hot and spicy sauce. Instead, it's a fleeting heat that adds interest but lets you taste everything else in the dish.

Besides drizzling on the lamb, the wine reduction has a variety of other uses. It can be added to other sauces or braises, added to a salad dressing for a little sweet heat, or drizzled over fresh fruit - or even ice cream. I used a Merlot for this recipe, but use any red wine you like.

Shallow-Braised Lamb Steaks with Red Wine Reduction

4 lamb steaks
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 medium onion, in 1/4-inch slices
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil, for searing

For the wine reduction:
1/2 bottle (375 ml) red wine
1/2 cup sugar
12 tepin peppers

Season the lamb steaks with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight lid. A tagine in perfect for cooking this way, but a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed frying pan will work as well. Brown the steaks on both sides, then add the wine and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the cherries and onions.

Cover the pot, turn the heat to very low. You want the liquid to be at a bare simmer for a very long, very slow braise. Cook for 3-4 hours, until the meat is fork-tender, checking it occasionally to make sure you aren't cooking the liquid out. With a tagine, you'll end up with more liquid than you started with, but with other cooking vessels, it's possible you might need to add water before the cooking time is up.

For the wine reduction:
Put all ingredients into a wide, shallow pan, and heat to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer on low until reduced to 1/3 the original volume, about 20 minutes. Strain out peppers, if desired. This can be served warm or at room temperature. You can cook this in a saucepan, but the high narrow sides will increase the cooking time to get the same amount of reduction.

To serve:
I served the lamb steaks over home made egg noodles that I rolled thinner and cut wider than the previous recipe. Like the photo here. Store-bought noodles would be fine. Or choose your own favorite starch.

The braising liquid (along with its cherries and onions) was served over the noodles with the lamb on top. The wine reduction was drizzled over the lamb. Extra wine reduction was passed at the table, and very simple green beans completed the plate.

This recipe was created for the Marx Foods Ridiculous Delicious Challenge, a complicated little contest with a whole lot of fun steps. I wrote about the Challenge here, and because of that post, I was chosen to compete. I received a box of 8 sample ingredients with the instruction to use two of those ingredients to create a recipe. I chose to use the Tart Dried Cherries and the Tepin Peppers for this recipe.

When public voting is open, I'll have link here. If that link is live, please go vote for me, hmmm?


Cedarglen said...

Hi Donna,
YES! I'd been thiking about something like this since you started the noodle/pasta thing again. I'll be using a slightly different formula, but +/-exactly your method. So what got me back to this? It was the noodles! This thin, floppy pieces that cannot be bought - must be made - were the winner. I've got the right meat and other goods, so Sunday is a GO. Thank you.

Unknown said...

that pasta is gorgeous, and i love the cherry-lamb combo!!

BigAppleNosh said...

This looks scrumptious - great use of the tepin peppers!

PS Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

Cucinanostra said...

I so agree with you. Homemade pasta is the key! This would be a hard recipe to remake if we make it to the next round. Great combinations and flavors. Good Luck!

The Food Hunter said...

great cherry-lamb combo.

Leslie Uhl said...

Wow, your lamb looks delicious! Great use of those luscious cherries, too!
I could have eaten them all at the first taste very very easily!
Thanks for stopping by my blog, as well, I appreciate it!

Donna Currie said...

Denise, it's interesting that you say it would be hard to make over. I'll take it as a compliment (too good to make over?) but when I was coming up with the concept, I had a lot of different, but similar ideas before I settled on this one. I was really happy with the result, but I still might try a few of the others sooner or later.

Thanks, all of you, for stopping by. It's starting to get interesting now!

Anonymous said...

A great find. Terrific recipes. I'll use the recipe tomorrow. I have many friends who love lamb and we cook it in every way but braising.
I look forward to visiting soon again.


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