Happy Accident: Lamb Stew

Those of us on the Eastern seaboard are enjoying a day of quiet, as the great Snowpocalypse of 2009 has forced us indoors. It seems that many of us (based on my anecdotal survey of FB statuses) are taking a queue from the best of Americana and have hunkered down with wine, chili (or stew), and holiday goodies. Count me as one of the crowd. However, due to a happy accident of bare shelves, I ended up with ground lamb instead of my usual beef. I've never cooked lamb before, ground or otherwise, so I headed to the Internet. I ended up at americanlamb.com, a website by a lamb industry group, which had a recipe for "Chef Tim Love's Spicy Lamb Chili" (http://www.americanlamb.com/recipes/browserecipes/groundlamb.aspx). I used this recipe as a start, but knew it would be too spicy for my taste and modified slightly. Here's the recipe I ended up with. The result was a savory chili with heat, tang and depth.

Laura's Snowpocalypse Lamb Chili
- olive oil
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 3 cloves garlic (could do more)
- 2 c. onion
(in the future, I think I'll try shallots for sophistication)
- 1/2 c. red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon from Chili)
- 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle chili pepper (could use real)
- 1/4 tsp. ground red cayenne pepper (I will prob. use all chipotle pepper in the future)
- 1/2 tsp. oregano (I will try basil in the future)
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (could up to 1/2 tsp.)
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 2 1/2 tbsp tbsp chili powder
- 3 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (with juices)
- 14 oz dark red kidney beans (could replace with great northern or cannellini beans)
- 15 oz great northern white beans (could replace with dark or light red kidney beans, but gives nice color)

In large pot sautee onion, lamb, and garlic until lamb is browned. Add red wine. Add seasonings until well blended. Add tomatoes and beans. Bring to boil. Turn down heat and simmer for about 20 min., until juices have thickened.
Takes 15-20 min. to prepare and 30 min. to cook.
Serves 6

I ate it straight away, and did not top with anything, mostly because I was so curious to taste it and I forgot. The chili itself has such a complex flavor of the heat working with the tang from the wine and tomatoes, that I hate to add anything to compete. I did wish I had some really good bread to go with it. I'd like to test different cheeses on it. A smoked fontina might work but runs the risk of being too strong. I'm also thinking something like Swiss might be an interesting counter point to the tang. On the other hand, sour cream and chives might provide just the right balance.

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