Braised Lamb with Juniper Berries, Fennel and Sage
Slow oven braising allows many flavors—onions, garlic, celery, wine, sage, juniper berries, fennel seed, bay leaves—to melt together in this soul-satisfying, fork tender lamb dish
- 1-1/2 cups dry red wine
- 2 pounds lamb stew meat
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 2-1/2 to 3 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 rib)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 10 juniper berries, finely crushed with a mortar and pestle
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bring wine to boil in a sauce pan. Reduce heat and simmer until wine is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 7 to 10 minutes (if you overdo the reduction, just add unreduced wine to bring it up to 3/4 cup). Set aside. Meanwhile, pat lamb chunks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven or other heavy oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to pot; when it begins to shimmer, brown lamb chunks on all sides, working in batches. Transfer browned lamb to plate. You may need to drizzle in a little more oil between batches.
Reduce heat to medium and sauté onions with a little salt (again, you may need to add a little oil) until just softened, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, celery, sage and crushed juniper berries and fennel seeds and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes.
Add wine, 3/4 cup of water, tomato paste and bay leaves and stir, scraping up browned bits. Return lamb and any accumulated juices to the pot and bring to boil. If necessary, add a little more water, but don’t make it too soupy. Remove from heat, cover with lid and place in oven. Braise for about 1-1/2 hours, until meat is almost tender.
Finish cooking on the stovetop over low heat for about 1/2 hour. If sauce is too liquid, leave the lid slightly ajar so it will reduce. Conversely, if it gets too dry, add water, a little at a time. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and transfer to individual plates or a serving dish. Top with chopped parsley.
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