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Braised Lamb with Pickled Onions
© John Kernick

Braised Lamb with Pickled Onions

  • ACTIVE: 1 HR 30 MIN
  • TOTAL TIME: 4 HRS 30 MIN
  • SERVINGS: 10
  • MAKE-AHEAD

Mateo Granados comes from a long line of butchers on his father's side. When his father had lamb to spare, his mother often prepared a succulent braised dish much like this one, saving the fat to make incredibly flavorful tortillas.

  1. One 5-pound boneless lamb shoulder, tied
  2. 6 1/2 cups water
  3. 3 bell peppers—1 red, 1 yellow and 1 green, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  4. 2 large white onions, 1 cut into 1/2-inch dice and 1 thinly sliced lengthwise
  5. One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, juices reserved
  6. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. 4 whole cloves
  8. 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  9. Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  10. 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  11. 1 teaspoon sugar
  12. 1 pound masa harina (4 cups)
  13. 3/4 cup pure olive oil
  14. 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Put the lamb in a deep roasting pan and add 4 cups of the water, the bell peppers, diced onion and the tomatoes and their juices. Season with salt and pepper. Tie the cloves, coriander seeds and 1 cinnamon stick in cheesecloth and add it to the pan. Cover tightly with foil and braise the lamb for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 180°. Discard the spice bundle.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the sliced onion with the vinegar, sugar, 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and the remaining cinnamon stick. Let the onion stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
  3. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Transfer the peppers, onion and tomatoes to a bowl and reserve. Strain the cooking liquid into a heatproof measuring cup and skim off the fat. Transfer the cooking liquid to a large, deep skillet and simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Return the peppers, onion and tomatoes to the sauce.
  4. When the lamb is cool enough to handle, remove the strings from the roast and shred the lamb, discarding any excess fat. Add the lamb to the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the masa harina with the remaining 2 1/2 cups of water and stir with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough forms. Add a few tablespoons of water if the dough seems very dry and crumbly. Add the olive oil and knead the dough until smooth. Divide the dough into 20 pieces and roll each one into a ball. Keep the dough balls covered with a lightly moistened towel; working with a few at a time, flatten the balls into 3-inch tortillas, a scant 1/3 inch thick.
  6. Heat a cast-iron griddle or skillet until hot. Add the tortillas in batches and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until lightly browned and slightly crisp on the outside, 5 to 6 minutes. Serve the shredded braised lamb over the warm tortillas, garnished with the pickled onions and cilantro leaves.
Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated overnight. Reheat before serving.

Suggested Pairing

Syrah is a classic pairing with lamb; so is the unrelated Petite Sirah (which some experts believe to be the obscure French variety Durif). Look for a bottling from Sonoma County.