Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lamb Chili with Lentils



Three big lamb chops were not going to feed four people, no way, not with all of those big blobs and hard ribbons of fat running through the meat. How did I miss seeing that at the meat counter!? Okay, take a deep breath and move forward; switch to Plan B and deal with it. This was an opportunity to develop a new-to-me Lamb Chili recipe. I have worked with scores of chili recipes over the years, familiar with the basic techniques and ingredients, but I don't often use lamb. Hmmm, what would make a lamb chili special? Lightbulb moment! Traveling through Washington State's Palouse country on a scenic winter road trip we sampled an awesome three-meat chili that featured lentils rather than beans (link). That was the inspiration, the beginning of this new favorite recipe.

The chili went together quickly and easily; removing the fat from the lamb was the only annoying step. Like so many chilies, soups and stews the day-one serving was delicious, but on the following day this lamb chili was even better. The flavors mellowed and mingled, the sweetness from the carrots balanced the bite of the fresh poblano and powdered ancho and chipotle seasonings. Lentils added a slightly nutty, earthy flavor and I tossed in a cup of garbanzo beans for a little more crunch. Lamb Chili with Lentils turned out to be a better choice than the grilled Lamb Kebabs I had originally planned. Serendipity, perhaps? 
   


Lamb Chili with Lentils
Approx. 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 to 3 cups lamb in 1 to 1.5” cubes, chunks of fat removed
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1 large onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced or smashed
¼ cup carrots, diced small
1 cup sweet peppers, deseeded and diced small
¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder
¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
½ teaspoon cumin
1 Poblano pepper, roasted, peeled & seeded, diced small
1 16-ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
3 to 4 cups low-sodium broth (beef or a beef/chicken mix)
salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup dried lentils, cooked separately
cooked garbanzo beans (optional)

Suggested toppings:
fresh herbs to add at finish (basil, cilantro, parsley or a bit of oregano, etc)
shredded cheese (feta is especially good)

Directions:
  1. Cook the lentils according to directions on package (typically 20-25 minutes) and set aside while assembling ingredients.
  2. Chop lamb, roast Poblano pepper, dice vegetables and gather remaining ingredients.
  3. Heat the oil in a wide, high-sided cast iron or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add half of the lamb cubes and brown lightly on all sides. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then set aside. Repeat with remaining lamb cubes.
  4. Spoon the excess fat out of the pan and discard. Add the onion, garlic, carrots and peppers and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until they soften but not brown, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in the chile powders and cumin and cook another minute or two until fragrant. Return the lamb and any meat juices to the pan; stir to combine with the spiced vegetables. 
  6. Add the diced poblano, the canned tomatoes and their juices, plus enough beef broth to cover. Bring to a slow boil and then simmer partially covered for 20-25 minutes until lamb is tender. Add more broth as needed.
  7. Add the drained lentils (and garbanzos if you choose) to the pot and continue cooking until lentils warm thoroughly and the sauce thickens a bit. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  8. Sprinkle with optional minced fresh herbs and shredded cheese and serve.

Notes
  • The chili is tasty immediately, but will hold well in the fridge for a day or two. The lentils will soak up some of the juices so you may want to add more broth when you reheat or just enjoy the thicker sauce.  
  • Add more broth and you have a delicious soup. 
  • Cut the lamb and vegetables larger, thicken with a tablespoon of masa marina, and you have a dynamite southwestern lamb stew.


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