Sauté d’agneau

Sauté of lamb

In this classic French recipe, lamb is first sautéed and then cooked slowly in wine and broth for a couple of hours to produce a highly flavorful, meltingly tender dish.

The dish is traditionally made using a deboned shoulder of lamb — have the butcher debone it for you. Leg of lamb may be substituted if shoulder is not available.

If you don’t have homemade chicken broth in your freezer, you may want to make some before beginning, but it’s not essential. I generally use 1 cup broth and 2 cups water, but using just water is also fine.

Serve the lamb with a vegetable purée — for example, purée of celeriac, carrots or potatoes — or, as is often the case in France, with white beans (soak the dried beans overnight, then boil until tender with a peeled onion and a bay leaf, add salt at the end).

A bottle of hearty red would accompany the lamb nicely.

2.2 pounds (1 kilo) deboned shoulder of lamb
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small carrot

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. tomato paste (concentré de tomate)
1/2 cup (1.2 dl) white wine
3 cups (7 dl) liquid: water, homemade chicken broth or a combination
1 tsp. herbes de Provence or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. sea salt or regular salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Slice the meat into large cubes, about 2 inches (5 cm) per side. They don’t need to be regular — triangles are fine too. Set aside.

Peel and finely mince the onion and garlic.

Peel the carrot and slice into very thin rounds. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a deep heavy-bottomed skillet or stewing pot. Add half the lamb and sauté, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the rest of the lamb, adding it to the bowl when done.

Now sauté the onion and garlic in the same pan. Cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomato paste to the onions and garlic and sauté briefly. Then add the wine, stirring it in a little at a time to blend with the tomato paste.

Return the lamb to the pan. Add the broth and water — it should totally cover the meat. If there’s not enough liquid to cover the meat, add a little more water.

Add the carrot slices, dried herbs and salt. Grind in some black pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat to low.

Set a cover over the pot, placing it slightly ajar so that steam can escape. Simmer for about 2 hours, or until the lamb is very tender and the liquid has reduced by half. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.

You can interrupt the recipe at this point to allow the lamb to rest for a while, or even refrigerate overnight. This pause will intensify the flavor.

When ready to serve, reheat the lamb gently. Add the cream and stir well to blend. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the chopped parsley or cilantro and serve piping hot. Serves 4-5.

For a slightly exotic variation, add 1/2 tsp. powdered cumin to the lamb when you add the other seasonings.

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