Well, Thanksgiving went off without a hitch. It was lovely, actually. We managed to squeeze everyone around a long skinny table, and we had almost enough matching place settings, although it was a bring your own chair affair. The turkey (brined in maple, with rosemary-butter under the skin) came out beautifully, and we had far more side dishes than we could eat thanks to everyone’s generosity. The wine was good, and my mom brought four glorious, enormous pies for the ten of us. There’s still half an apple pie and two cups of freshly whipped cream in my fridge, calling my name pretty much every time I walk by.
And then today? I did almost nothing. I mean, I finished cleaning up the kitchen, I did some online furniture shopping from the comfort of the couch, I wrote, and I worked my way through a pile of Bon Appetit magazines, so not nothing. But, it was cold and gray and rainy and for the most part I indulged in a full day of sloth (with a short, one hour exception for a bracing run that actually felt really good). After this year (and let’s be honest, last year too), I could use about two weeks of days like this. But the next two days are a good start, and I’m going to use the pause to share a few recipes here, starting with this Tunisian Lamb-and-Eggplant Stew.
We had a dinner party recently, with a few friends. I’m so happy we’ve entered the dinner party stage of our lives (coinciding with the “hosting Thanksgiving” stage of our lives). What a lovely thing, to sit with friends around a table full of home-cooked food, to drink good wine and talk for hours. I served this Tunisian lamb stew, and I loved it so much that I made it again a week later to share here.
I go through phases where I want to come up with all my own recipes – phases during which I feel unstoppably creative and can’t stop jotting down ideas to test in the kitchen. But I also go through phases where all I want is to cook other people’s recipes, testing them exactly as written, respecting all of their hard work and creativity in developing them for me to eat and enjoy. This fall I seem to be more in the latter phase. More specifically, right now I want to cook my way through the “fall” section of Sunday Suppers at Lucques, which might be my all time favorite cookbook. Reading through the table of contents makes my mouth water, particularly in the fall section where it seems that all of the year’s best produce comes clashing together to be stewed and simmered and roasted to perfection in hearty autumn meals. Grilled Duck with Creme Fraiche, Roasted Grapes, and Potato Bacon Gratin? Braised Chicken with Saffron Onions, Italian Couscous, and Dates? Grilled Tuna with Potato-Tomato Gratin and Rouille? These recipes make me want to hideaway in my kitchen and cook for the next month.
The second time making this lamb stew, when I wasn’t also trying to make a Pumpkin Streusel Cake and a fancy Kale Caesar Salad and put out appetizers, this was actually relatively easy to make. I skipped a few minor steps and consolidated the number of pots and pans used to reduce clean-up, but generally stayed pretty true to the recipe, and it was very manageable for a slow Sunday afternoon. It’s spicy and intense and exactly the sort of homey but slightly exotic dish I want to be putting on the table during these dark November days.
More from Sunday Suppers at Lucques:
Tunisian Lamb-and-Eggplant Stew with Farro, Parsley, and Harrisa
Recipe adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Serves 6.
- 3 lbs boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 TBS caraway seeds
- 1 TBS ground coriander
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smahed
- 3 chiles de arbol, cut into small pieces (easiest with scissors)
- 2 tsp parika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 TBS olive oil, divided
- 2 small onions, peeled and finely diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- fresh juice from 1 lemon
- 4 cups beef or chicken stock
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 large Italian eggplant
- Farro with parsley and butter (recipe below)
- harissa paste, homemade or store bought, for serving
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, minced
- Sea salt and pepper
- Place the lamb in a bowl or a large ziploc bag with the cumin, caraway, smashed garlic, arbol chiles, paprika, cayenne, and 2 TBS of the olive oil. Season generously with sea salt. Use your hands to coat the lamb with the olive oil and spices, making sure to coat all the pieces. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, or zip up the plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to cook, take the lamb out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Add 2 TBS of olive oil to a large Dutch oven or wide pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add the lamb (and its marinade) to the pot in a single layer (if the lamb does not fit in a single layer without crowding, do this in two batches). Sear the meat until it’s well browned and caramelized all over. Don’t rush it! You want the lamb to develop a nice, dark brown color. As the lamb is browned, use a slotted spoon to remove it to a plate.
- When all the lamb is browned, turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and bay leaves to the pot. Saute until onions are tender and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the lemon juice and cook 2-3 minutes, just to coat the onions. Add the beef stock and cinnamon to the pan and bring it to a boil.
- When the stock is boiling, turn off the heat. Add the browned lamb to the pot. Cover with aluminum foil and a tight fitting lid. Braise the lamb in the oven for 3 hours.
- About an hour before the lamb is done, cut the eggplant into 1 inch cubes. Toss them with a teaspoon of sea salt and place them in a colander over a plate or bowl. Let them soften and drain for about 20 minutes. Heat the remaining 2 TBS olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cubed eggplant and cook, turning frequently, until it is seared on all sides and tender, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up the excess olive oil.
- After 3 hours, check the meat for doneness – it should be falling apart and super tender. Taste the stew for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired. At this point, you have two options. The easy option is to add the fried eggplant and the minced parsley to the lamb as it is, then serve. The second option, if you want a more elegant presentation, is to ladle most of the lamb’s braising juices out of the pan, and pour them through a strainer into a second pot. Discard the vegetables and keep only the strained juices. Skim the fat from the juices, then reduce the juices over medium heat until thickened. Add the reduced juices back to the stew, along with the eggplant, then stir in the minced parsley. Serve.
- To serve, divide the farro between bowls and ladle the stew on top. Serve with harissa on the side.
Farro with Parsley and Butter
Recipe adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Serves 6.
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cups farro
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 TBS butter
- 1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the farro, stir to coat with the olive oil, and toast for 2 minutes. Then, add 8 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender.
- Drain the farro and discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Add the butter and the parsley to the hot farro and stir until the butter is melted and the parsley is fully mixed in. Serve warm.