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Braised Lamb Shoulder with Figs

Ask the butcher to give you the lamb bones so you can add them to the pot. They will contribute flavor to the subtly fig-sweetened sauce. If desired, garnish the finished dish with halved fresh figs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless lamb shoulder, 4 to 4 1/2 lb.,
     rolled and tied, bones cut into pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • 4 to 5 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed with the side of
     a knife
  • 1/2-inch-wide strips of peel from 1 lemon
     (with no bitter white pith)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 6 large dried figs, about 8 oz. total, hard stems
     trimmed, figs halved or quartered
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325°F.

Pat the lamb dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow bowl and dredge the lamb in the flour, shaking off the excess.

In a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm 4 tsp. of the olive oil. Add the meat and bones and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer them to a platter. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, garlic and lemon peel to the pan along with the remaining 1 tsp. oil, if needed. Cook, stirring frequently to incorporate some of the browned bits, until the onion starts to wilt, about 3 minutes.

Lay the meat and bones on the onion mixture and add the wine, stock and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and add the oregano, cinnamon and cloves. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, about 2 1/4 hours, adding the figs during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Transfer the meat and figs to a platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Discard the bones and skim the fat from the sauce. Set the pot over low heat and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, flavorful and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Discard the strings from the lamb, slice the meat across the grain and arrange the slices on the platter, surrounded by the figs. Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and sprinkle with the dill. Transfer the remaining sauce to a sauceboat and pass alongside. Serves 6.

Leslie Revsin, Chef and Cookbook Author, New York City.