Another mind-blowing braised dish by favorite chef/author Molly Stevens. I can’t even begin to tell you how much depth of flavor this lamb dish contains with the additions of preserved lemons, green olives, spices and veggies. Those green olives and preserved lemon give this Moroccan-influenced stew a tart-salty counterpoint to the sweet chunks of butternut squash.
Earlier in the year, we purchased a large leg of lamb, portioning away what we needed at the time. The remainder was cut into cubes in 2-pound lots, vacuumed-sealed and frozen for later use, like now. Therefore, the amount we used for this recipe was shy by a pound; however we kept the remaining ingredients the same. (Since we used leg instead of shoulder, it took only 45 minutes in Step 12 to tenderize—shoulder will take about a half hour longer.)
The Mr. looks spiffy in his Chef’s jacket and CIA toque (compliments of Gary and Rosanne) while he browns the lamb cubes.
Patience is needed when making this Moroccan Lamb Stew dinner because you’ll need a good three hours with prep and cooking. (See make ahead notation below.) To give you an idea, we started ours late on a Sunday afternoon and had dinner around 7:30. Because of the volume of ingredients serving 5 to 6 people, we had leftovers which we ate a few nights later over a bed of couscous—drooling once again 😉
NOTE: BTW, we usually keep a jar of preserved lemons in our auxiliary refrigerator. Many Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes call for them—lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. It’s quite easy to do, though takes at least three weeks before the lemons are ready to use. So plan ahead, it’s worth it.
We use Meyer lemons for making preserved lemons because they are milder than Eureka lemons (the regular lemon you buy at the store), they work beautifully preserved this way.
True, this recipe is more complex than many, but so are some relationships. I would marry this dish, but hubby might have an issue 😉
Moroccan Lamb Stew
- 3 lb. boneless lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch pieces
- 3 Tbs. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil; more as needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2-1/2 cups homemade or lower-salt store-bought beef broth
- 2 cups onion wedges (3/4-inch wedges)
- 2 cups diced butternut squash (1-inch dice)
- 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup halved pitted green olives
- 1/4 cup chopped preserved lemon
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
- Spread the lamb on paper towels to dry for 10 to 20 minutes before browning. (You can use this time to chop the onion, celery, and carrot). If the meat is very wet, pat it dry.
- In a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, heat 3 Tbs. oil over medium to medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Season about one-third of lamb with salt and pepper and arrange it in a single layer in the pot (there should be at least 1/2 inch of space between the pieces).
- Brown well on at least 4 sides, adjusting the heat as necessary; each batch should take about 10 minutes to brown. Transfer the lamb to a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet as it browns and repeat with the rest of the lamb, seasoning with salt and pepper before browning. Once all of the lamb is browned, remove the pot from the heat to let it cool for a few minutes.
- Pour all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot. (If there is not enough, add oil to equal 2 Tbs.) Return the pot to medium heat, then add the onion, celery, and carrot. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, caraway, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the wine, stirring with the wooden spatula to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Raise the heat to medium high and boil to reduce by about half, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the beef broth and 1-1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil.
- Return the lamb to the pot along with any accumulated juice. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
- Crumple a 12×16-inch piece of parchment, then flatten it out. (Crumpling makes for easy handling.) Place the parchment directly on the surface of the stew, allowing the ends to come up the sides of the pot. Cover and put in the oven.
- After 1 hour of stewing, add the onion wedges to the pot. Cover with the parchment and lid, return to the oven.
- After another 30 minutes, add the squash. Cover with the parchment and lid, return the pot to the oven, and cook until the lamb is fork-tender, 45 minutes to 1-1/4 hours more. (Shoulder cuts will take longer than leg cuts.)
- Stir in the chickpeas, olives, preserved lemon, and parsley. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.
- If necessary, degrease the stew by laying a clean paper towel over the surface of the stew and gently pushing it into all the bumps and dips, then quickly peeling it off. Repeat as necessary with more paper towels. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Make Ahead Tips
The stew can be made up to 2 days ahead: Skip the degreasing step, cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. Once the stew is chilled, lift the solidified fat off the top with a slotted spoon. Reheat the stew over medium-low heat to serve.
Adapted from a recipe by chef/author Molly Stevens