Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Spring Lamb & Morel Pie
I have never been a great fan of leftover lamb. I find cold lamb fat so unappealing, and to reheat roast lamb is to know toughness like you never have before. So with 2 lbs of roast leg of lamb left over from Easter, I have been feeling rather uninspired.
This morning, though, I remembered the best lamb of my life. I was in Barçelona, up in the hills of Mount Tibidabo at an old stone inn covered in blue clematis. We were served a quarter of a lamb, rubbed with garlic, olive oil, and sea salt, and roasted in a wood-burning oven; alongside was a salad of freshly picked lettuce and more sun-warm tomatoes, olive oil and salt.
While my New York apartment’s oven is hardly wood-burning, and our boneless leg of lamb did not taste as though it had grazed next to its Barçelonian cousin on wild fennel and mountain herbs, I did have an idea. This is a springtime version of my wintery Lamb, Chestnut, and Porcini Pie, and it is a nostalgic nod to that lamb I shared with a dear friend in Spain.
Don’t let the anchovies make you nervous. They add a depth of flavor and salinity but no fishiness. They can be omitted if you just can’t face them. Also, feel free to buy a packet of frozen puff pastry if you’d rather not make the crust yourself. I do this sometimes with the winter pie I mentioned. Just thaw, cut in half, roll out, brush with egg wash, and follow the baking directions on the package.
Serves 4 - 6
For the Lamb:
Extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2lbs roast leg of lamb or 3lbs raw lamb shoulder, cubed
4 anchovy fillets
6 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1 bulb fennel, large dice
2 stalks fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 tbsp fennel seed, freshly ground
1 cup dried or 2 cups fresh morel mushrooms
1 bottle white wine (I used a nice, slatey, Viña Godeval)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
For the Pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
10 oz chilled, unsalted butter, frozen and grated or cut into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
Heat a large pot over high heat. Add a little olive oil. If your lamb is raw, rinse and pat dry. Season it well on all sides with salt and pepper. Brown it in batches, replenishing the oil as needed. Remove to a plate.
Add more oil to the pot if needed, and reduce the heat to medium. Add the anchovies and stir until they begin to break up. Add the shallots and garlic and sprinkle with a little salt. Once the shallots soften a little, add the fennel and sweat the vegetables for 3 more minutes. Stir in your lamb, whether leftover or fresh, and add any juices that have collected on the plate back into the vegetables. Add the rosemary, bay leaves, fennel seed, and morel mushrooms if using dried. Season with more salt and pepper and add enough wine to cover. Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.
Uncover the pot, add the fresh morels, if using, and continue to simmer, stirring more often, for another hour. At this point, you are trying to reduce the cooking liquid and concentrate flavors without burning the stew, so be sure to stir to the bottom often.
Meanwhile, make the pastry for the pie. Sift the flour and add a generous pinch or 2 of salt. Work in the butter with two forks until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle in up to 12 tbsp of the ice water, just until the dough holds together when stirred with a fork. Divide into 2 balls, wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
When the stew is finished, turn off the heat, remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaves, and add the lemon zest and juice. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Roll each piece of dough out into 12 inch rounds on a lightly floured surface. Put one round into a 9 inch pie plate and prick all over with a fork. Spoon in the lamb stew and then cover with the remaining pastry round. Roll and press the edges together with your fingers or a fork and cut an opening in the center (I use a piping tip) to allow steam to escape.
Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and bake on a metal baking sheet for 1 hour. Cool 15-20 minutes before serving with a crisp green salad.