Friday, January 14, 2011

Lamb in winter

The Beet

Express Staff Writer

When it's so cold you can't feel your toes, culinary possibilities seem somewhat limited. Salads are not appealing when the wind chill is in the negative teens, and there is only so much soup one can eat before the need for warm, solid food is almost overwhelming.

Enter the lamb ragout. This sounds fussy and a little intimidating, I know. Though lamb is gaining in popularity, it's still considered expensive and difficult to cook correctly. The fact that "ragout" is French doesn't do much to dispel that notion, even though it roughly translates to "really yummy sauce-thing."

Not only is this recipe delicious, it's amazingly easy. It uses two pans, minimizing cleanup. The sauce starts from a can of tomato paste and two cans of good-quality diced tomatoes, combined with a few pantry staples such as garlic and shallots that make it taste like it's been simmering for hours. The lamb is ground, so it cooks quickly and easily, without requiring any sort of "medium-or-medium-well?" debate.

The most time-consuming part is simmering the cooked lamb with the red sauce to meld all the flavors together. That 15 minutes is the perfect amount of time during which to thaw out with a hot chocolate aperitif—or something more adult, if you prefer.

And only 45 minutes or so after you've started mincing the garlic, you'll be tucking into a bowl of pasta so good, it'll make you forget that there's frost on the inside of your windows.


Lamb Ragout

Source: A Chow Life

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large shallot, diced finely

2 medium carrots, diced

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme

1 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary

1 lb. ground lamb

2 cans (14 oz) diced tomatoes

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 lb. rigatoni or other pasta of your choice

In a large pan, heat the garlic and olive oil over medium heat until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the shallots, carrots, thyme, red pepper flakes, and rosemary and cook until wilted and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the lamb meat and cook until brown with no remaining pink parts of the meat, about 10-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste.

Simmer the mixture over medium heat for about 15 minutes to help combine the flavors. Don't worry if it looks watery—this will be remedied!

In the meantime, boil the noodles in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking water.

Stir the cooking water and butter into the ragout and simmer until it thickens slightly. If it doesn't after a few minutes, raise heat to medium-high and simmer, stirring constantly, until reduced slightly.

Serve over warm pasta, hopefully to an appreciative audience. Serves five to six, depending on how hungry everyone is.

Katherine Wutz:

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