Lamb “Cannelloni” with Carmelized Apples and Candied Lemon Peel

This recipe originally appeared in a Vine Art blog post on June 7, 2011.  Click here to see additional explanation of the recipe and a wine pairing.

Inspired by a dish at Pera Batlla, Ventalló, Spain

Serves 4

Braised Lamb

3 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder, extra surface fat trimmed

1 750 ml bottle dry white wine

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 large onions, cut in half , peeled, and sliced

1 branch fresh rosemary

1 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and place an oven rack  in the lower third of the oven.  Combine the wine and chicken stock in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for
about 15 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit. In the meantime, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven that has a lid and is a little bigger than the lamb shoulder.  Saute the onions with a little salt and pepper until lightly browned, then transfer the onions to the wine/stock mixture with a slotted spoon.  Cover the saucepan and keep the liquid and onions warm.

Salt and pepper the lamb generously.  Spread the flour on a dinner plate and then dredge the lamb shoulder all over in flour, shaking off the excess.  Get the Dutch oven hot again, and add a little more oil if it looks dry.  Brown the lamb on all sides until it’s just golden.
Remove the lamb and pour in about half the liquid and onions, stirring and scraping the bottom of the Dutch oven to release all the browned bits.  Put in the lamb and the  rosemary, then pour  in the rest of the liquid.  Bring it all  to a boil on the stove, then cover it tightly and put it in the oven.

Braise the lamb for 3 hours, turning it over every hour.  Let it cool in the liquid until
you can handle it.  (If you like, you can refrigerate the whole thing after it cools.)
When you’re ready to go on, remove the lamb and cut it off the bones, then cut it into very small pieces, ¼-inch or so.  You should have at least 4 cups of meat, which is what you’ll need for the recipe.

Strain the braising liquid, pressing on the vegetables in the strainer to extract as much liquid and flavor as you can, and add enough of the liquid to the lamb pieces to keep them moist.  Taste the lamb for salt at this point and add some if you think it needs it.  Refrigerate the lamb and the braising liquid separately.

Caramelized Apples

4 Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

A pinch of salt

Sugar (optional)

Peel the apples and cut a slice off the top and bottom so that they’re both flat.  Then make four cuts vertically around the core so that you end up with four pieces of apple.  Slice each piece ¼-inch thick, then stack the slices and cut into ¼-inch julienne, then into ¼-inch
cubes.  Toss the apple cubes with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.

Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet.  When the foaming subsides, add the apple
cubes to the pan and spread them out as much as possible.  Saute them over medium heat for about 5  minutes without touching them.  Then gently turn them over with a plastic or wooden spatula and cook them on all sides until they’re lightly browned all over and just tender but not mushy.  Taste a couple and see if you’d like them to be a bit sweeter – if so, add about a teaspoon of sugar to the pan and gently mix it with the apples.

Spread the apples on a microwave-safe dinner plate and let them cool.  You can cover the plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for a day or two if you’d like.

Candied Lemon Peel

1 large lemon, or 2 small ones, rinsed and dried

Water

Granulated sugar

Sparkle sugar (optional, but it looks pretty)

Using a good vegetable peeler, cut 9 strips of peel from the lemon, making them as long as possible. You’ll need only 8 for the recipe, but you’ll want one to test for doneness.  (You can also make more and freeze them, they’re delicious and make a great garnish for other dishes too.)  Be careful to include just the yellow part and not the white part, which can be bitter (a little is OK, but if there’s more, put the strips yellow-side-down on a cutting board and scrape the white part away with a small sharp knife).

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the peel slices, and simmer for 3 minutes.  While they’re simmering, heat ¾ cup each of water and granulated sugar together in a small
saucepan, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce it to just
simmering.  Drain the peel and add it to the simmering sugar mixture.  Cook it for 15 minutes and then fish one out with a fork and taste it.  It should be completely soft.  If not, cook for a few minutes until done.  Turn off the heat.

Place a cooling rack with small holes over a baking sheet to catch drips.  Put at least a cup of granulated sugar on a plate.  Fish the peel slices out of the sugar syrup one at a time and let the excess syrup drip back into the pot.  Drop the slice on the sugar on the plate, then push some sugar onto the top of the slice and press it down gently.  If you like, sprinkle a
small amount of sparkle sugar (it’s clear and has nice big crystals) onto the convex surface (the peel will curl a little).  Place the slice on the rack and let it dry for a couple of hours.  Repeat with the remaining lemon peel slices.  They’ll firm up as they dry.  Then you can store them airtight at room temperature for a few days, or freeze them.

Crepes

This recipe makes more crepes than you’ll need, but if you’re new to crepe making you may have a few less than perfect specimens.  And you can freeze the leftover crepes for
another use.

1 cup flour, measured by the dip-and-sweep method, or 5 ounces.

2/3 cup milk

2/3 cup water

3 large eggs

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, cooled slightly, plus additional butter to cook the crepes

You can mix all the ingredients (including the 3 tb of melted butter) in a blender until smooth, or in a bowl (beat the water, milk and eggs together, and add them to the flour with the salt and butter and whisk until completely blended).  Let the mixture sit at room temperature for at least an hour, so the flour can absorb the liquid.

Heat a little butter in a nonstick sauté pan that’s about 10 inches in diameter across the top (you’ll want to make crepes that are 7 inches or so in diameter).  When the foaming stops, add about 3 tablespoons of batter to the pan all at once and swirl the pan so the batter just covers the bottom of the pan.  Cook over medium-low heat for a minute, then
gently lift an edge of the crepe to check the underside – it should just be starting to get golden (if not, cook it for another 30 seconds and check again).  Using your fingers or a spatula, turn the crepe over and cook it for about 30 seconds.  Transfer the crepe to a dinner plate and proceed with the next one.  You can stack them up as you make them.

Let the stack cool for a couple of minutes, then cover the whole stack and the plate with plastic wrap. You can keep them in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or freeze
them once they’re cool.  If you freeze them, let them defrost overnight in the fridge.

Assembly

4 cups finely diced braised lamb

The lamb braising liquid

1 large onion, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ to 1 teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika

4 ounces good smoked bacon, cut into small pieces

Olive oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

12 crepes

The caramelized apples

8 strips of candied lemon peel

4 small sprigs of rosemary

Bring the braising liquid to a boil in a small saucepan and simmer it for about 10 minutes to reduce it a bit.  Heat a little oil in a large skillet and add the onion, plus a little salt and some pepper. Cook the onion until it’s lightly browned.  Then add the lamb pieces and ½ teaspoon of the paprika and continue to cook until the pan looks a little dry.  Add about a cup of the hot braising liquid, raise the heat, and cook, stirring, until the liquid is almost gone and you start to get a little browning of the liquid in the pan.  Taste it for salt, pepper, and paprika, and add more if you’d like.  Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and set the lamb aside.

Set a crepe ugly side up on your work surface.  Put about 1/3 cup of the lamb mixture just
below the center of the crepe and spread it into a small rectangle.  Fold the bottom of the crepe up over the filling, then fold in the sides.  Using a pastry brush, brush a little beaten egg on the top edge of the crepe, then fold the top down and press lightly to seal. Set the filled cannellone aside, seam side down, and continue with the rest.

Cook the bacon pieces in a large nonstick pan until just crisp.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain the pieces on paper towels. Add a little olive oil to the bacon fat in the pan – you’ll want to have the entire pan covered with fat and oil. When everything’s hot, put the cannelloni in the pan seam side down and cook over medium-high heat until the bottom is browned.  Turn the packets over and brown the other side.  Then stand the crepes on their unbrowned sides right up against one another to brown them, and repeat on the other side.  Pick up two cannelloni at a time gently with tongs and brown the ends.
You want everything really good and browned (although this is tougher with the ends, so do the best you can).

While the cannelloni are browning, heat the caramelized apples in the microwave – you can do this right on the plate you had them cooling on.  When everything’s ready, put
¼ of the apples in a small pile on each of four dinner plates.  Arrange 3 cannelloni around and on the apples, and sprinkle ¼ of the cooked bacon over.  Drizzle some of the reduced braising juices around, the place 2 slices of candied lemon peel standing up artfully among the cannelloni and apples.  Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.  Serve immediately.

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