Lamb Braised in Milk with Garlic and Fennel

Mario Batali calls lamb braised in milk "absolute poetry," especially when it's flavored with a scattering of fennel seeds. "This," he adds, "is what the Roman Empire must have tasted like."

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  • Servings: 8

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  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 rosemary sprigs

How to make this recipe

  1. Using a chef's knife, chop the garlic with the flat-leaf parsley and fennel seeds to form a coarse paste. In a large enameled, cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic paste and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Raise the heat to moderately high and add half of the lamb pieces. Cook, turning, until lightly browned all over. Transfer the lamb to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Repeat the process with the remaining lamb.

  2. Add 1/2 cup of the milk to the casserole and cook over high heat for 2 minutes, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups of milk, the heavy cream, rosemary and the seared lamb and its juices. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a bowl; discard the rosemary. Boil the milk mixture over high heat until reduced to 4 cups, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, puree the hot milk mixture in a blender. Return the sauce to the casserole, add the lamb and simmer over low heat until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Make Ahead

The braised lamb can be refrigerated overnight in the pureed sauce. Reheat gently before serving.

Serve With

Roman-style artichokes (artichokes braised with olive oil and garlic).

Suggested Pairing

A Montiano with notes of tobacco and cedar has the body to match the lamb and fennel. "A Super-Roman wine for a super-Roman dish," says Joe Bastianich.

Contributed By Published November 2004

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