I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say I don’t like lamb, but I definitely have a lack of enthusiasm for it. On the few occasions I’ve eaten lamb, I’ve never been very happy with it, however it’s one of those foods that I wished I liked. I have friends who see lamb on a menu and respond with such exuberance; I’m often envious of their lamb gusto. Lamb sounds so cultured and fantastic, I wish I liked it, too. And then I order steak.
I was determined to learn to like lamb. This persistence has proven successful for me in the past. When I was younger I overcame a distaste for pesto and sun dried tomatoes. True story.
My first attempt were lamb meatballs with Greek yogurt and harissa from Steele & Rye in Milton, which were satisfying – no complaints. Reasoning that I liked the Middle Eastern flavors, my next attempt were homemade spiced lamb patties, which resulted in a significant setback. I was very disappointed with the texture. Over the Summer, my friend Jennie and I had dinner at Sportello in Boston. Jennie, a staunch lamb fan, ordered the chop and offered me a bite. At the risk of being impolite, let’s just say I was much happier with my soft-shell crab. I was ready to throw in the lamb towel, but as I diligently whittled away at my list of kitchen resolutions, I decided to give lamb one more shot. I opted for this ragù. Friends, I’m pleased to report that I genuinely enjoyed the dish. It was well seasoned, the red wine gave the sauce an earthy depth and the ground lamb was tender. It made for a nice rustic dinner with a crusty loaf of bread. It would be perfect on a cold night with a big bowl of pasta.
Would I have preferred beef ragù? Maybe. Am I lamb convert? No. But, I remember reading once that it can take as many as 20 to 30 times of trying a new food before you actually acquire a taste for it. I may still have a way to go with lamb, but, in the meantime, I’ve expanded my horizons and my taste buds.
Original recipe from Epicurious.com
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine (use your favorite)
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
In a large cast-iron dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the carrot, onion and celery and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 5 minutes.
Add the lamb, coriander, fennel, cumin, rosemary and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, approximately 10 minutes minutes.
Add the tomatoes and their juices, along with the stock and bring to a boil.
Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the liquid is slightly reduced, 25 to 30 minutes.
Serve with bread or pasta.