Wow. This post is making me hungry--which is probably due to the fact that I cooked this 2 1/2 weeks ago and am only now posting because I have been in Blogger Exile. (No internet at home, and working through my lunch hour at the office. Blurgh.)
This recipe is perfect if you haven't cooked alot of lamb before--it's braised, so you can achieve that complex flavor and tenderness that you'd expect at a great restaurant fairly easily at home. And if you're not too sure how your famiglia will take to lamb, the gremolata really perks it up and adds a garlicy, acidic balance to an otherwise super-earthy, rich dish, so it's an easy "crowd-pleaser."
While we're trying new things, please pair this with a sundried-tomato risotto, even if you've never made risotto before. While risotto takes some patience/stirring, it's an easy "wine glass in hand" stir that's difficult to botch. I swear, you can make risotto after draining 3 wine glasses, and it'll still be stellar. (I've probably kept some smaller wine producers in CA afloat in these trying economic times, simply due to my risotto-making. Think of the little guy!)
Food and Wine's Syrah-Braised Lamb w/Garlic Gremolata and Sundried-Tomato Risotto:
For the Lamb: (From FoodandWine.com, adjusted to serve 4--original recipe serves 8)
1 Tbs. ground Cumin
1 1/2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 2-3 lb. boneless Lamb Shoulder Roast (tied, if you prefer for presentations' sake)
3/4 bottle Syrah wine
2 cups Chicken Stock
6 sprigs Thyme
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the cumin, 1 Tbs. oil, and a generous dash of salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the lamb.
Heat the remaining 1/2 Tbs. olive oil in a dutch oven or oven-safe pot over medium high heat. Add the lamb shoulder and brown it well.
Remove the lamb to a large plate, and pour off and discard any excess oil from the dutch oven. Return the lamb to the dutch oven, add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a boil over the stove.
Cover and transfer the dish to the oven. Braise the lamb for 1.5 to 2 hours, turning the meat occasionally (don't forget, that cooking dish is HOT) until tender.
Transfer the lamb to a serving platter and tent with foil. Discard the thyme sprigs, and boil the braising liquid until reduced to 2 cups.
Follow the basic recipe on Cookthink.com but add 1 clove minced garlic and 1 1/2 cup sliced baby portabella mushrooms when you saute the onion, and add 1/2 cup sliced sundried tomatoes (packed in the vacuum seal bags, not oil) with the wine. Substitute 1/2 cup feta cheese for the parmesan cheese.
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
3 Tbs. grated lemon peel
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 Tbs. finely chopped rosemary or thyme
Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.
Spoon the risotto onto a plate, top with braised lamb, and serve with a generous portion of gremolata. Enjoy!