Let's hope this post is coherent; creating this lamb recipe culminated in a last-minute feast with nine friends and a baby, and as these evenings always do, it ended with many rounds of drinks and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. I'm thrilled to participate in this year's American Lamb Pro-Am challenge alongside some of my favorite local bloggers and food-loving friends. (Well, I guess we're temporarily enemies since we're competing against each other!)
When I first started brainstorming what to do with the gigantic leg of lamb I was provided for this contest, I kept thinking about stuffing lamb into things - ravioli, maybe? Dumplings? - and incorporating some spring vegetables into the mix. But these ideas required ground lamb, and it seemed like a shame to just grind up such a beautiful cut of lamb. As a compromise, I decided to use the lamb two ways: ground in one part of the recipe and cooked in a different way for the other half.
The first draft: harissa and lamb empanadas (eventually dubbed "lambanadas" by one of my dinner guests) with a spring salad topped with sliced, roasted lamb. With some input from Joel, my dining companion/boyfriend/lamb slicer, I settled on adding dates to the harissa and lamb empanadas and using our makeshift sous vide (inspired by Cooking for Geeks) to prepare the lamb for the salad. For the ground lamb, I actually went out and bought the food grinder add-on for my newish KitchenAid stand mixer. Now I want to grind everything! For the salad, I raided every last bit of the final Somerville Winter Farmers Market of the season and came away with a gorgeous selection of late winter/early spring root vegetables. To tie the two pieces of the dish together, I used a Turkish spice blend in both lamb preparations.
This lamb duo pulls together fairly easily timing-wise. Allow at least 90 minutes for the lamb in the sous vide - but the nice thing about the sous vide is that you can actually leave it there all day and it'll still come out perfectly. The empanadas can also be made ahead of time; just warm them in the oven right before serving.
HARISSA AND DATE "LAMBANADAS"
Makes 20 empanadas
- 2 lbs ground lamb
- 1 tbsp Turkish spice blend
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds
- 20 empanada shells (such as Goya Discos)
- 1 1/4 cups harissa
- 6-8 Medjool dates, chopped coarsely
- 1 egg (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Season raw ground lamb with the Turkish spice blend and caraway seeds.
- Brown lamb over high heat on the stovetop until fully cooked, approximately 6-8 minutes.
- Spread empanada shells on a lightly greased baking sheet.
- On the lower half of each shell (leaving a half-inch border all around), spoon about two tablespoons of cooked lamb. Top with about a tablespoon of harissa and 5-6 chopped date bits.
- One shell at a time, use your finger to wet the bottom half of the circumference of the shell and fold over the top half, pushing down to seal.
- Using the tines of a fork, make indentations along the edge to reinforce the seal.
- Optional: In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk an egg until well-blended. Brush onto the top of each empanada for a shiny finish.
- Bake empanadas for 15 minutes.
LAMB SOUS VIDE SPRING SALAD
Makes 6-8 servings
- 2 lbs leg of lamb
- 1 tbsp Turkish spice blend
- 1 head red leaf lettuce or other greens
- selection of root vegetables (I used 6 parsnips, 1 moon radish, and 2 sweet potatoes.)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper (optional: garlic salt)
- Optional: honey (Our root vegetables were sweet enough on their own because the time of year is just right, but add a drizzle of honey if you'd like.)
- Preheat oven to 400F and sous vide to 135F.
- Slice lamb into large (steak-sized) chunks and rub with Turkish spice blend before vacuum sealing for the sous vide.
- Cook the lamb in the sous vide for at least 90 minutes or up to a whole day.
- Meanwhile, slice the root vegetables, season with salt and pepper (add garlic salt if desired), drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 45 minutes at 400F.
- Remove lamb from sous vide, sear at the highest possible heat for no more than 2 minutes per side, and then cut up into small slices.
- Arrange lamb and roasted vegetables on top of a bed of lettuce or preferred greens; serve with Harissa and Date "Lambanadas."
Disclosure: I was provided a leg of lamb to use in the development of this recipe, courtesy of BostonChefs.com and the American Lamb Board, for the purpose of participating in a contest to decide which six out of fourteen local bloggers will compete at the 2nd American Lamb Pro-Am Boston.
Update: Please vote for this recipe in the American Lamb Pro-Am Boston contest between now and April 26th, if you'd be so kind. VOTE HERE!