Like any major holiday, Easter comes with its own food traditions — and the chance to tweak those traditions ever so slightly to create something new.
In my family, Easter, which is this Sunday, usually meant a big ham, and trimmings like scalloped potatoes and warm applesauce.
This year, I wanted to mix it up with a different protein. I turned to lamb, a very traditional Easter main course that came from the Jewish food traditions practiced during Passover.
But cooking lamb at home can be difficult if you're not used to it. Do you go with a whole roast? A rack of chops? Chops are the most luxurious cut of lamb, often the most expensive but super tender when cooked properly. You could marinate a lamb leg and throw it on the grill, the lean part of the animal offering nice steaks. Ground lamb makes for sturdy meatballs, especially when mixed with another meat like beef or turkey.
A roast may be the most straightforward option. Try the shoulder, a marbled cut best purchased boneless that is perfect for roasting. Season it with dried herbs like rosemary, salt and pepper, then let it cook for a couple of hours.
I went with something slightly different, equally appealing to those in my family who love lamb and those who merely tolerate it: stew!
Lamb is a natural choice for a stew with Moroccan flavors like coriander, fennel and cumin. It cooks much like beef in this form, imparting a slightly gamier flavor that gives this dish some personality.
You could definitely use beef instead, if you want.
I recommend serving this stew with some pita bread or na'an, and a big, fresh salad made up of lettuce and lots of fresh herbs. Mint goes beautifully with lamb dishes. Throw some citrus in there, too.
This is a good anytime stew, but it's especially nice for a celebratory family meal, the warm spices and hearty lamb putting a twist on the standard holiday roast. And cleanup is easier, too.
Moroccan Lamb Stew
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ½ pounds trimmed boned lamb shoulder, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch pieces (you can also use stew beef)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 (15 ½-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
A pinch of cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, for serving
Greek yogurt, for serving
Mix first six ingredients in a large bowl. Add lamb and toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add lamb to pot and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally and adding more oil if needed to keep the pot from drying out.
Add onion, carrots and tomato paste. Reduce heat to medium; saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, chickpeas, cinnamon and lemon peel and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until lamb is just tender, about 1 hour. Uncover and simmer until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, about 20 minutes. Use a spoon to break up whole tomatoes a bit. Taste stew and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Transfer to serving bowls, sprinkle with just a bit of mint and top with a dollop of yogurt.
Serves about 6.
Source: Adapted from Epicurious