The Lamb Dish You Crave On A Cold Night

Lamb shoulder braised with tomatoes and garnished with bodacious burrata.
Lamb shoulder braised with tomatoes and garnished with bodacious burrata.

How can one possibly make low and slow-braised, fall-apart tender lamb any better?

Try topping it with a big ol’ ball of burrata, that’s how.

You’ve probably enjoyed many a meaty stew or ragu dolloped with creamy ricotta. But when you swap that out for voluptuous burrata whose luscious creamy center spills out to add dreamy, milky sweetness to anything it touches, you’ve just about attained nirvana.

“Braised Lamb with Burrata and Herb Oil” is that dish.

It’s from “Okanagan Eats” (Figure 1), of which I received a review copy. A collection of recipes from British Columbia’s Wine Country, it was written by Dawn Postnikoff, co-founder of Edible Vancouver Island; and Joanne Sasvari, a food writer and Canadian Wine Scholar.

Learn about this fertile region, which comprises three valleys, two river valleys, and the Okanagan Valley.

And discover top restaurants that make their home here, along with their signature recipes, including “Duck and Waffles” from The Bistro At Hillside Winery; “Beef Rendang” from BNA Brewing Co. & Eatery; “Smoked Cheddar and Pork Burger with Grilled Okanagan Apples” from Taste of the Okanagan Specialty Foods; and “Tempura Chocolate Fondants” from Karat Chocolate & Pastry Boutique.

This phenomenal lamb dish is served at Sprout Bread, founded by native New Zealander Peter van Boekhout. who specializes in loaves made with organic flour and baked after a 36-hour fermentation. His cafe chef James McKenzie developed this dish.

Boneless lamb shoulder cubes get a quick marinade in garlic, salt, pepper, coriander, fennel, and smoky paprika, before being seared on the stovetop.

Onions, fennel, cherry tomatoes then get sauteed until softened, before the lamb is added back to the pot with canned tomatoes. Everything is slid into the oven to cook gently for about 2 hours.

The burrata gets its own vibrantly green garnish in the form of an oil infused with garlic, pumpkin seeds, basil leaves, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. A splash of sherry vinegar gets stirred in to give everything a lift.

Saucy and sensational.
Saucy and sensational.

Spoon the braised lamb into a large serving bowl. Place that glorious ball of burrata right in the center like a floating island. Lastly, drizzle on the herb oil.

Of course Boekhout serves this lusty dish with thick slices of his own sprout focaccia (the recipe is included in the book). But if you want to take the lazy way out like me, serve it with any artisan bread and you can’t go wrong.

The recipe states that it serves 6 to 8, but I think it’s more like 4 to 5, given that it’s only 1 1/2 pounds of lamb. So, I changed that in the recipe below. If you wanted to extend it out more, you could easily add another 1/2 pound of lamb and the dish would still be saucy enough without altering anything else.

Boekhout recommends pairing the dish with an Orofino Gamay. With no Gamay in the house, I uncorked a bottle of the 2021 Textbook Cabernet Reserve ($46) instead, which I had on hand as a sample.

This Cabernet Sauvignon definitely made for a textbook pairing.
This Cabernet Sauvignon definitely made for a textbook pairing.

The first reserve release by this Napa Valley winery, it’s a blend of 86 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 9 percent Merlot, 2 percent Malbec, 1 percent Cabernet Franc, and 1 percent Petit Verdot, which made me think it would have both the body yet nuance to stand up to this meaty dish. Deep garnet in the glass, it was a beautiful match with its Napa-style fruitiness of cherries and blackberries on the palate balanced by its more Bordeaux-like earthiness and structured yet smooth tannins.

The sweet, slightly acidic taste of the tomatoes plays so well with the tender lamb. Burrata simply makes everything better, and here it gets dressed up with herby oil heightened with the nuttiness and crunch of pumpkin seeds.

It’s everything that Sunday supper should be on a chilly evening.

However, if that doesn’t happen to be the forecast, I’d gladly turn on the A/C to savor this dish anytime, anywhere, because it’s just that good.

You'll want plenty of bread to dunk into the delicious sauce.
You’ll want plenty of bread to dunk into the delicious sauce.

Braised Lamb with Burrata and Herb Oil

(Serves 4 to 5)

For the braised lamb:

1 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes

3 to 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, ground

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 small head fennel, chopped

Pint of cherry tomatoes

1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes

1 ball fresh burrata, mozzarella or bocconcini

Foccacia or other artisan bread, to serve

For the herb oil:

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped

1/4 cup chopped herbs, such as thyme, basil, and oregano

2 pinches flaky sea salt

Pinch of crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar

To braise lamb: In a large bowl, combine lamb, garlic, salt, pepper, ground coriander, ground fennel, paprika and 1 tablespoon oil. Mix well, then refrigerate for 20 to 60 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine onions, fennel, cherry tomatoes and 1 tablespoon oil. Toss.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add lamb and sear on all sides, until nicely browned. Transfer lamb back to the mixing bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add onion-tomato mixture to the Dutch oven and saute over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, making sure no garlic or spices are stuck to the bottom. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, until tomatoes split and can be squished with the back of a spoon. Resist the urge to look or stir.

Add lamb and canned tomatoes. Cover with an ovenproof lid and braise in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 45 to 60 minutes, until lamb is very tender.

To make the herb oil: Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and pumpkin seeds and saute for 5 minutes, just until garlic starts to brown.

Add herbs and saute for 1 minute, until dark green and crispy-crunchy. Turn off heat and leave pan on the residual heat, until oil cools to room temperature. Just before serving, add salt, crushed red pepper and vinegar.

To serve: Spoon warm lamb and sauce into a large serving bowl and place burrata in the center. Drizzle with herb oil and serve with focaccia.

Adapted from “Okanagan Eats” by Dawn Postnikoff and Joanne Sasvari

Another Recipe to Enjoy From A Joanne Sasvari Cookbook: Kinako Brown Butter Shortbread

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