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Lamb Stew with Truffle Mash

Kwaf is offering two great Xmas wine packages for the holidays and it was my job to pair each package with a recipe. The Quintessential Christmas Dinner package was a no brainer since I had just posted my recipe for Portuguese Corn Bread stuffing and those wines are all about turkey dinner but the Three Brilliant Reds pack was more of a challenge. At the breakfast tasting last week, I decided that although beef is the obvious meat to serve with bold reds, it would be nicer to do some lamb. Now, The Kid and I love lamb but Shack doesn't so I rarely cook it and I didn't have anything in the archives at all. That meant that I was going to have to come up with something on the fly. I bought some really nice lamb stew meat and sat and stared at it for a while, trying to think of something tasty, simple but nice enough to serve to guests over the holidays but not so involved that it would make entertaining a pain. I couldn't get a shepherd's pie out of my mind and that's not really really fancy pants enough to serve to guests but I couldn't get it out of my mind.

The way to gussy it up would be add some truffle oil to the mashed potatoes and serve it in individual ramekins instead of family style in one big casserole dish.  Suddenly, shepherds pie doesn't feel like just a nice, homey casserole to feed your family on a Sunday night. If you actually make the effort of piping the mashed potatoes and adding the fried rosemary to the top of each one, it becomes an elegant dish to serve alongside a beautiful bottle of Colchester Ridge Estate Winery 2010 Meritage, my favourite of the three wines in the pack.

I  also really wanted a recipe that you could make ahead and throw together at the last minute if you wanted to so this made perfect sense. You can make the stew a day or two before hand and even the potatoes can be made earlier in the day and just put together and reheated 20 minutes before your dinner. Oh, and if you can find some local, Ontario lamb do that because we have some very tasty sheep right here in Ontario and I find it fresher than the frozen New Zealand, which can sometimes be a bit gamey and oily. DON'T SEND ME NASTY EMAILS ABOUT DELICIOUS, NON GAMEY NEW ZEALAND LAMB

Lamb Stew with Truffle Mash

serves 6 to 8

Lamb Stew

1 kg (2 lbs) lamb stew meat
4 tbls flour
a couple big pinches kosher salt
about 15 grinds black pepper
a couple glugs of olive oil (just under 1/4 cup in total)
1/2 cup ruby port
100 g pancetta, chopped
2 cups or 240 g pearl onions, left whole but peeled and furry end cut off
2 cups or 300g parsnips, roughly chopped in approx 1/2"chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 bunches of rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped
2 tbls tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock (maybe more)

Truffle Mashed Potatoes

3 1/2 lbs of peeled and quartered yukon golds
1 cup half and half
1/4 c cup butter
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 tbls truffle oil

* garnish rosemary fried in butter

preheat the oven to 350F

Mix the flour, salt and pepper in either a plastic storage bag or a plastic bowl with a lid. Dry the meat with a paper towel and toss in with the flour until all the pieces are coated.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in an oven proof pot ( I use enamelled cast iron) . If you don't have one, just use a heavy pot and you can transfer it into a baking vessel to bake.

Brown the lamb in the hot oil until all sides are nicely browned and remove the meat to a bowl. Pour the port into the pot and, with a wooden spoon, deglaze the pot, scraping up all the good stuff that has probably stuck to the bottom, while  your port also reduces a bit in the process. Pour off all of that port and drippings etc into the bowl with your meat and set aside.

In the hot pan, add a tiny bit more oil if you need it and saute the pancetta for a minute before throwing in the pearl onions, garlic, rosemary and parsnsips. Saute that for another couple of minutes and then push all of the solids off to the sides of the pot, exposing an empty spot in the middle. That is where you are going to put your tomato paste, where you will stir it around with your wooden spoon, basically frying it, for a minute or two, until it starts to take on a bit of colour. Finally, pour in your stock and stir it all up with your wooden spoon, making sure to get up all the drippings from the bottom. Bring to a simmer, cover and move it into the oven.

(if you haven't got an oven proof pot of some sort, this is where you would transfer the contents of your pot into some sort of baking dish and cover tightly with foil)

Cook for about 1 1/2 hrs to 2 hrs (check after 1 to make sure there is enough liquid - I had to add a bit more stock halfway through - depends on your oven and your pot).

(You can always cook the stew ahead of time and then when you are ready to serve it, reheat in a big pot, transfer the stew to individual ramekins, cover with the mashed potatoes and proceed.)

When your stew has about 1/2 an hour to go, you can make your truffle mashed potatoes.

Cook your potatoes in salted water until they are tender.
Drain the cooked potatoes and return them to the pot to stir them around in the hot pot and dry them off for a minute on the burner that you have turned off . Remove the pan from the burner and add the butter, half and half, a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper and truffle oil and mash until smooth (you can also put the potatoes through a ricer if that's your thing)

At this point, taste and check for salt and pepper as well as truffle oil. I would start with the tbls and then if you think it needs more, add it and mash some more but only little dribbles at a time. It can get very overpowering very quickly. If you have guests who don't care for truffle oil it's also nice to leave it out of the actual potatoes and just drizzle a little bit over the top of each individual dish as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Remove your stew from the oven

Crank your oven up to 400F

Okay, so now you have your hot stew and your mashed potatoes. Ladle the stew into individual ramekins and spoon a nice, big dollap of mashed potatoes on top, covering the entire surface of the ramekin. If you want to get super fancy, you can pipe the potatoes on as well.

Pop those back into the oven and cook for another 20 minutes, until the potatoes start to brown and the stew is bubbling.

While the stew and potatoes are heating up in the oven, heat up a couple of table of butter in a saute pan  until it foams and fry a bunch of small rosemary sprig chunks in the butter til they are crispy. Remove them from the pan and set on a piece of paper towel.
Remove the ramekins from the oven, set a fried rosemary sprig on top of each and serve.

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