Paula Wolfert learned a chicken dish called chaariya medfouna from a private cook named Karima, left. "Chaariya means noodles," Wolfert says. "Medfoun means a surprise or something hidden.” In Paula’s adaptation, the steamed noodles cover tender chunks of lamb spiced with cumin.
More Recipes by Paula Wolfert
Large pinch of saffron threads
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 large red onions, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Two 2-inch cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
12 cilantro sprigs, tied in a bundle
1 1/2 pounds vermicelli or angel-hair pasta, broken into 3-inch lengths
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
1/2 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup blanched whole almonds
1/2 cup cold salted water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
How to Make It
In a small skillet, toast the saffron over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Crumble the saffron threads and cover with 2 tablespoons of water.
In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the lamb, onions, cinnamon sticks, ginger, pepper, turmeric and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until fragrant, 5 minutes.
Add the cilantro, the saffron water and 2 cups of fresh water to the casserole and bring to a simmer. Cover with a round of parchment paper and a lid; simmer, turning the lamb once, until tender, 1 hour.
Transfer the lamb and all but 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to a bowl. Discard the cilantro and cinnamon sticks. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the casserole; cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Return the lamb and cooking liquid to the casserole and season with salt. Cover and let stand.
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, toss the noodles with the 2 teaspoons of oil. Oil a large steamer insert and set it in a pot. Add enough water to the pot to reach just below the insert; bring to a boil. Add the noodles, cover and steam over moderate heat for 20 minutes, adding more water as necessary.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water and let soak until softened, 10 minutes; drain. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely, then finely chop.
Transfer the noodles to the bowl and toss with the raisins and salted water; return to the steamer insert, cover and steam for 20 minutes longer. Pour the noodles into the water in the pot and boil, stirring, until al dente, 2 minutes. Drain. Return the noodles and raisins to the bowl, add the butter and toss to coat. Season with salt.
Reheat the lamb. Spread half of the noodles in a large serving bowl and cover with the lamb stew. Mound the remaining noodles on top, making a well in the center. Fill the well with 3 tablespoons of the confectioners' sugar. In a bowl, combine the remaining confectioners' sugar with the almonds and ground cinnamon. Sprinkle the almond mixture over the noodles and serve.
A Rhône Valley red with ample tannins will help counter this stew's richness. Try a Côtes du Rhône Rouge or Gigondas.
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