Braised Stuffed Breast of Lamb
Pairs Well With
1 lamb breast (approx. 2 pounds)
Olive oil for browning
Salt and pepper
6 shallots, minced (seems like a lot but it works)
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed in a garlic press
1 medium yellow onion, minced
Twine to tie lamb breast
Dried Fruit Stuffing (recipe below can be made a day in advance)
Ask your butcher to prepare the breast of lamb by cutting off the ribs and trimming off the extra fat, leaving the meat in a rectangle, if possible. This “rectangle” (more like an elongated triangle) will serve you best when you roll the meat and tie it for braising.
With the lamb breast flat on your cutting board, begin to prepare the meat by generously sprinkling each side with salt and pepper. I suggest you use Thomas Keller’s technique from The French Laundry: sprinkle the salt and pepper from between your fingers high above the meat. This disperses the salt and pepper more evenly than if you were to sprinkle it close to the meat.
With the lamb breast meat side up on the cutting board, spread your cooled fruit stuffing onto the meat. Roll meat from short end to short end and wide end to skinny end. Tie rolled lamb breast in three places with twine.
Preheat your oven to 170°F.
Heat a braising pan on the stove. Add olive oil to the hot pan and heat the oil until almost smoking. Brown the rolled lamb breast, turning as necessary, until golden or slightly browned. Remove lamb from pan and set it aside.
In the same pan, reduce heat and add shallots, garlic and onion. Cook until tender but not browned. (Browning will make the garlic taste bitter.)
Add remaining wine from wine bottle to pan. Deglaze pan, scraping up bits on bottom of pan.
Return browned lamb breast to the braising pan. Cover. Place pan in oven and braise at 170 degrees for 2 to 2½ hours. Once lamb is cooked, remove pan from oven and remove lamb from pan. Let lamb rest and cool slightly.
Put pan on stove and finish dish.
NOTE: You may reduce sauce in pan further to create a thicker finishing sauce before adding the following:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
When ready to serve, remove twine from lamb. Cut lamb into slices approximately 1½ inches thick.
Serve sliced lamb with sauce from braising pan. Or, you may serve the sliced lamb breast on an oval platter, topped with the finishing sauce. Place the roasted new potatoes in the middle of the platter. Fill your glasses with one of Merry’s fabulous Pinot Noirs and enjoy the evening.
OPTION: Use bone-in lamb stew meat or lamb neck meat to make a tagine, a popular dish these days. Add aromatics to your liking, such as coriander, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, etc. Roast in a tagine dish or tight-lidded Dutch oven for another wonderful dish.
Dried Fruit Stuffing
Use one type of fruit, all fruits, or any combination of these fruits:
¼ cup dried pears, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup dried apricots, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup dark raisins
1 cup Merry Edwards Pinot Noir
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar
Chopped pecans (optional)
Place all the fruit into a nonreactive medium saucepan Add 1 cup Merry Edwards Pinot Noir (a sacrifice but worth it!) and let dried fruit soak in the wine for 8 hours or overnight.
After soaking dried fruit, add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar or coconut sugar. Cook on high heat until you reduce the liquid to ¼ cup. Some fruit may plump and burst; other fruit may take on the color of the wine; this is all OK. You may add chopped pecans at this point, enough chopped pecans to make the dried fruit stuffing more like the stuffing you might put inside a turkey at Thanksgiving. This will give the lamb breast more substance when rolled and roasted.
Set this aside to cool and to use after you prepare the lamb breasts.
Merry’s friend Teresa Tachovsky created this dish and it pairs beautifully with the 2016 Georganne Pinot Noir. A breast of lamb (tucked beside the ribs) is an inexpensive cut of meat that, if prepared properly by braising low and slow for hours, results in a delicious main course for a dinner party. Serve this lamb with a crisp butter-lettuce salad with a simple citrus vinaigrette, and tiny new potatoes roasted with olive oil, fresh rosemary and a few garlic cloves.