Though warmer weather has come to stay with many of us, we are still more or less in the April-showers time of year, and nothing beats a slow-cooked, hearty meal on a rainy evening. Our house is down to the last of last year’s pastured lamb share, and I weep for this. I weep because it’ll be at least a couple of months before replenishing the freezer, and because I have happened upon a combination of flavors that ranks in my all-time top three preparations for lamb. This dish is now tied with my friend Kristen’s spicy lamb stew with aleppo pepper and cippolini onions, and another one I made up – a curried cauliflower and chickpea roast into which I sometimes toss some lamb.
The lamb shares we purchase from Yacolt Mountain Farm are so wonderful. The lambs live with and nurse from their mothers, and get to frolic around in the sun and the grass, until the day they are harvested for us. They get to live as happy a brief life as any animal ever has, and that loving care translates into fresh, pure-tasting lamb that is never greasy or otherwise off-putting (the reason I didn’t eat lamb until my mid-twenties).
So with the lamb and with the chilly, rainy days we have left in this season, let us partake of this recipe, one that I feel respects the uniqueness of each ingredient, while still being, dare I say, STUPID easy. You can use any cut of lamb, but a shoulder or stew meat makes the most sense to me, as this recipe simmers in your slow cooker all day. Not everyone has preserved lemons on hand, but I swear if you buy one jar, you’ll be hooked and keep them around all the time. The brightness a piece of preserved lemon adds to a meal is wonderful. I sometimes use whole, peeled pearl or baby onions in this dish, and I love the texture of them, but a big onion, cut into chunks, is just fine, too. A little tarragon goes a long way, and I love the way the hint of it plays with the lemon and the red wine here. This stew-like dish can be made with many more vegetables, and usually I do try to incorporate as much produce as possible into every meal, but since the ingredients I have listed seem to work so well together, I am fine with this one being meat-centric.
Enough teasing; here’s the recipe.
Slow-cooked lamb with preserved lemon and tarragon
One 2-lb. lamb shoulder, or 2 lbs. lamb stew meat
1 extra large onion, or 1 lb. peeled baby or pearl onions (my favorite option)
2/3 to 1 C. preserved lemon chunks (taste them and decide how prominent you’d like their contribution to be)
1 t. dried tarragon, or to taste
2 C. red wine
2 C. stock or broth (I used chicken stock)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh, chopped flat-leaf parsley to garnish
If you have time, sear the lamb on all sides in a high skillet with a tablespoon of oil or butter.
If you have less time, place all ingredients but parsley in a slow cooker. Turn on low and simmer for at least six hours, and up to all day.
This is great by itself, garnished with fresh parsley, but if you’re inclined, you can also serve this either over egg noodles or with a slice of crusty bread. I have also heard *cough cough* that if you’re serving it with bread, Brie is a good idea, too.