I’m no historian, but I can imagine that many of the world’s greatest ideas, alliances, and solutions were all encouraged with a “little” wine. Similarly, the idea for this dish came from the surplus of wine left in our apartment after our rehearsal dinner last year. We couldn’t finish a bottle one night, and decided to seal it up, leave it in the fridge, and hope that it stayed fresh for another day. It was still drinkable, but the flavor had changed. Dani suggested we steal a trick from the Ancient Romans, and make “Mulsum” or “honey wine” by simmering our red wine with honey, and spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Well, “Mrs. Always Right” struck again–it gave the wine new life, and gave me another crazy idea: I wanted to make it savory.
It’s best to season lamb the night before, and leave it in the fridge until ready to cook. I seared in a heavy pot, then transferred the pieces into a pot to finish simmering in mulsum, and chicken stock. Definitely give it time to cook and soften–it’ll be worth it.
Now for the polenta cakes–I’ve done them before, but this time it didn’t come out quite right. I added the regular amount of water listed on the box, and I didn’t give it enough time to reduce, so the polenta never stiffened up to make the thick bars I wanted. I’d suggest simmering the polenta until it starts to thicken and get hard to stir. From there, you can transfer it to a forming tray, and chill it in the fridge until it can be cut into your desired shape. Since mine were still too soft when I formed them, I had to flatten them completely and bake until they were firm. Not my original plan, but it still tasted great.
Here’s your chance to make this the way I should have done it.
2 lb Lamb Stew Meat
4 Cups Dry Red Wine (ex. Merlot, Malbec)
4 Cups Chicken Stock
4 Cups Polenta
2 Cups Parmesan, grated
2 Carrots, chopped
1 Celery Stalk, chopped
3 Sprigs of Thyme
3 Sprigs of Rosemary
4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 Tbs Dried Thyme
1 Tbs Dried Rosemary
2 Cups Arugula
1 Tsp Coriander
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Tbs Honey
1 Orange Peel
1 Tbs Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to Taste
- Defrost lamb, and pat dry. Season with salt, pepper, and coriander. Transfer to a large ziplock bag, then add chopped garlic, fresh thyme, and rosemary. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
- Pour red wine into a sauce pot, and simmer with cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, honey, and coriander. When everything dissolves, allow the Mulsum to cool, then set aside. It’s a pretty good drink–try a little…
- Allow lamb to rest on the counter for at least one hour prior to cooking. Place a dry cast iron skillet on medium heat, then sear lamb on all sides. Transfer lamb pieces to a second stockpot on medium heat, and add thyme, rosemary, and garlic from the marinade. Deglaze the cast iron with mulsum, and pour the liquid into the stock pot. Add chicken stock, and bring to a low boil. Lower the heat to medium low, then cover and allow the liquid to reduce for two to three hours, stirring occasionally.
- Bring three cups of salted water to a boil, add olive oil, and whisk polenta in slowly. Add parmesan, then lower heat to medium, and continue to stir until the polenta thickens. Taste for salt, then transfer to a pyrex dish lined with lightly-oiled plastic wrap, and cool in the fridge for 2 hours.
- Remove polenta from the fridge, then cut into desired shape. Each cake should be 1/2 in to 1 in thick. Place a heavy pot on medium heat with olive oil, and pan-fry on both sides until golden.
- Plate polenta, and lamb with arugula, and jus from the braising pot.