Adventures in Marinading, part II: Tunisian Lamb Braise, with Eggplant and Bulgur

Posted on August 5, 2011


Milk in the Raw


Part I‘s milk-marinaded chicken was a succulent, tender grilled success.  So, while we’re on a roll with this, we’re trying an overnight, milk-marinaded lamb.  We’re planning to use a stew cut (1 inch cubes, from the shoulder).  In the past, we’ve found this cut can be a little tough, so we have big hopes that what the dairy did for chicken, it can do for lamb too.

We went with a Tunisian flavor profile, somewhat adapted to suit what we have on hand. The lamb gets braised, and served with sauteed eggplant and over a bed of bulgur.  The caraway, tomato, lemon, and cinnamon are pretty spectacular in this dish. I didn’t know what to expect with the caraway, and I’m seriously impressed now. We’ve had caraway sitting in the cabinet from experiments with rye bread, so I’m glad to find another way to use it. Anyway — highly, highly recommend this flavor profile!  In hindsight, the long braising times for this recipe does so much to make the meat succulent that the milk-marinade effect might be hard to pinpoint.  But. I’m craving savory and do not want to go to the store, so I’m just running with this Tunisian style Lamb and Eggplant idea.  We’re adapting the linked version to sub in fresh red chili peppers and we’ve adapted some of the process based on previous braise recipes.

Tunisian Lamb with Eggplant

Adapted from Rocket Lunch

For the Lamb:
2 pounds lamb shoulder, in 1 1/2 inch cubes,
and marinaded overnight in 2-3 cups milk
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2-3 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika (this is what we had; hungarian paprika would be fine too!)
4-6 tablespoons olive oil (or so)
2 cups diced onion
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 fresh red chiles, chopped finely

3-4 tomatoes, peeled

1/2 cup lemon juice
5 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
Generous dash of ground allspice
For the Eggplant:
2 medium eggplants
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325.

Toast the caraway and coriander seeds in a small pan, until fragrant and slightly darkened. Bash the seeds coarsely in a mortar and pestle.  Add the paprika to make a rub for the lamb.  You’ll have extra. Hold on to it — we tossed the rest into the stew in a later step, or I suppose you could store for another recipe.

Pull the lamb out of the milk and discard the marinade. Mix the lamb with the caraway-coriander-paprika spice mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a Dutch oven over high heat and add a good glug of olive oil to the pot.  When the oil is fragrant and hot, brown the lamb in 2 or 3 batches (try to avoid overcrowding the pan). As you finish the batches, pull the meat off to a platter.

Lower heat to medium.  Add onion,  garlic, and red chili peppers. Here’s where we added the leftover spice mixture as well.  Scrape up the browned bits as you go, with a wooden spoon. Allow the onions to caramelize (5 minutes or so),then add the tomatoes and lemon juice.  Crush the tomatoes with the wooden spoon.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring.

Add the remaining stew ingredients: stock, bay, cinnamon, allspice, and the reserved lamb (along with any accumulated juices). Bring to a boil.  Cover with a tight lid and braise in the preheated oven for 3 hours.

While the meat gets close to finishing, prep the eggplant:  Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Place the eggplant in a large colander and toss with salt. Allow to drain for 10 minutes. Pat the eggplant dry. Heat a large pan over high heat and add about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the eggplant and allow to brown for a couple of minutes. This could take a few batches. When golden brown on all sides (3 to 4 minutes), remove from heat. We never have paper towels, so we drain ours on a rack over a baking sheet.

When the 3 hours is up, check the lamb.  It should be tender and close to falling apart.  Cook for a little longer if needed. At this point, the original instructions have you strain the braising liquid to thicken it on the stove-top and continue to cook the meat slightly at 400 degrees. I tried this, but in hindsight, won’t bother in the future. I like the brothy-ness of the braising liquid and didn’t find that the extra heat on the meat made much difference since it was already divine.

In the interest of simplifying the dish (the original version cooks up a farro dish with onions etcetc), we went with serving the lamb atop a bed of bulgur wheat. Top with the eggplant and a dash or two of spicy harissa, if you feel so inclined!

This is delish and disappeared too quickly for photos. It’s that good!

Posted in: kitchen