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Braised Lamb with Artichokes

by Jayne Cohen

8-10 servings

  • 5-6 pounds bone-in lean lamb shoulder
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 10 large garlic cloves, peeled, plus 2-3 tablespoons garlic, finely minced
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • Zest of 1 large lemon, shredded
  • 1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade, or good-quality low-sodium canned
  • 8-10 medium artichokes (see note), or two 9- or 10-ounce packages frozen artichokes, thawed and patted dry with paper towels
  • ½ cup fresh mint, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the lamb of as much fat as possible. Cut the lamb into 1½- to 2-inch pieces, leaving the bones in. However, cut the meat away from any large, unsightly bones. Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Do the initial browning in a large 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil until hot but not smoking. Add the lamb in batches and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Fry only a few pieces at a time. Add a little more oil to the pan only if necessary because you want to burn off as much fat as you can. Transfer the lamb as it is done to a platter.

If there is any rendered fat remaining in the pan, wipe it out. Add 1 tablespoon fresh oil and heat until hot. Add the onions and brown over medium-high heat, lifting and turning them as they become deep gold, about 10 minutes, and scraping up any browned bits. Add the whole garlic cloves and cook for 2 minutes longer. Return the meat to the pan, season it with salt and pepper, and turn the meat over a few times to coat it well with the onions. Add ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon rosemary, the thyme and lemon zest and cook for 3 minutes.

Transfer the mixture and any scrapings from the bottom of the pan to a 6-to 8-quart Dutch oven or large, deep casserole and add the broth. Bring to a slow bubble, cover, and reduce the heat to the barest simmer. Cook for about 1½ hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork. Turn the meat frequently, basting it with the onions and pan sauce.

Add the artichokes, and cook, covered, until they are very tender, 15-20 minutes. Continue cooking until a few of the artichoke pieces break up and melt into the sauce, but follow your preference. The lamb should be very tender. If there is a lot of liquid left in the pot, uncover and turn the heat up to high, evaporating enough so that the pan liquid is thick and syrupy. Stir in the mint, minced garlic, and remaining 1 tablespoon rosemary and ¼ cup lemon juice and cook for 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasoning. There should be a pronounced lemon flavor, so add a bit more juice, if necessary. For easier and more attractive serving, remove the large bones that pull away from the meat easily.

Follow this method to prepare fresh artichokes: to prevent the artichokes from discoloring, rub each surface you cut with fresh lemon. Or dip into a large bowl of cold water acidulated with the juice of a large lemon. Slice off the artichoke stem and reserve. Pull off the tough outer leaves at the bottom of the artichoke and discard. Using a serrated knife or scissors, cut off the pointy top of the leaves just above the artichoke heart or choke and discard. With a very sharp knife, cut off and discard the remaining leaves, until you reach the palest soft leaves. Now cut the artichoke in half vertically and pull out and discard the purple-tipped leaves in the center. With a teaspoon, scrape out all of the fuzzy choke and discard. Trim the artichoke stem and peel it. Cut the stem into bite-size chunks. Halve the heart halves again, so you have quarters. The artichoke and the stem are ready to be used in the recipe. Prepare the remaining artichokes in the same way. This dish tastes even better the next day.

To prepare it in advance while retaining an herbal freshness, hold off on the herb and lemon finish. Remove from the heat and cool 1 hour, then refrigerate, covered, overnight. Scrape off any congealed fat from the surface. Reheat gently until heated through, and proceed with the final addition of herbs, garlic, and lemon juice.


Adapted from
"The Gefilte Variations"
by Jayne Cohen,
Scribner, 2000.
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