Cider Braised Paprika Lamb

By DuncanRhys C. Liancourt

––This is the first stanza of Frank O’Hara’s “The Hunter:”

He set out and kept hunting / and hunting. Where, he thought / and thought, is the real chamois? / and can I kill it where it is? / He had brought with him only a dish / of pears. The autumn wind soared / above the trails where the drops / of the chamois led him further. / The leaves dropped around him / like pie-plates. The stars fell / one by one into his eyes and burnt.

I have braised many a lamb shoulder; I’ve used red wine and white wine, broth and beer, tomatoes, vermouth, water, and once even grappa. I’ve certainly used apple cider mixed with wine on a pork shoulder, but for Christmas Eve I did two new things. I used a very specific hard cider, and I used paprika as the main spice. The smoky, sweet heat of the paprika combined with the sweet, gentle alcohol of the hard cider and the tender acidity of the cider vinegar Christmas Eve miracled my world. This was my favorite slow-braised boneless lamb shoulder EVER (and I don’t deploy all caps willy-nilly). The lamb was cloud-tender, of course, but the flavor was sublimely poised at the junction of savory and sweet, as if it were meat with all the joy of dessert or sweet pastry with all the earthy warmth and sustenance of meat honorably won in a primal world where man and beast coexist in balance. And the liquid––well ‘twas like drinking cider caramelized at an exotic wood fire.

I have my own, imperfect no doubt, self-learned and instinctual way of cooking. I do not presume to be specially gifted in any way at putting down recipes, or at sharing them. I experiment so am often surprised, sometimes pleasantly and sometimes not. This lamb, which I knew would be at least OK, stunned me so happily, and is so well suited for the time of year that I wish to share it. If you are not familiar with this braising technique there are many wonderful sets of instructions readily available in books and on-line. Finally, I am no food photographer or food blogger. To see the apotheosis of these visit MyKugelhopf and WhatLolitaEats. Please, however, feel free to post questions in the comment section if you want to know more specifically what technique I used in this case. Enjoy.

Lamb shoulder, boneless (mine was +/- 3 ½ lbs, freed from the store’s netting).

The Spice House’s smoked Spanish paprika, both the sweet & hot, for the lamb.

Spices for the lamb: cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander, fennel seed, salt &pepper.

Herbs for the pot: ginger, sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf.

J. K. ‘s Scrumpy hard cider & apple cider vinegar for braising

Onion, garlic, and an orange pepper. Vegetables: I did tri-color carrots & sweet potatoes.

Rub the lamb lovingly all over with paprika and spices, deeply brown all over then remove from pan. Sauté onion, garlic, and pepper; add herbs, then vinegar, then put lamb back in and pour the cider over it to cover 2/3 of the lamb.  As soon as it’s bubbling cover and move to a 300 f oven for a few 3-4 hours. Add the Vegetables, and top up with more cider thinned with a bit of water if you need more liquid, then back in the oven until the veg are done, which depends on what size chunks you made. Move to the stove and uncover then simmer until the broth reduces a bit––to your liking. Check salt & pepper, parsley it and eat, over noodles or rice if you like, but we did it just plain like stew, and had the leftovers on rice the next night.

Happy New Year

3 Responses to “Cider Braised Paprika Lamb”
  1. I have emailed Chris on this one, since he is now the cook. This was marvelously written, and I also agree: a cookbook perhaps? I may even like lamb better if cooked in this manner.

    M.F.K. Fischer for our time. Thanks. Lucy

  2. Clare Keller says:

    This sounds absolutely delicious, and I’m not a lamb lover, except for the occasional little rib chops in spring, cooked with the preserved lemon crescents. However, I’m going to print out this recipe and use it when our dear friends who do love lamb are next here — Or perhaps before; I don’t want to wait too long to try it. Must look first for your specific ingredients. I have most of the herbs and spices on hand, with sage still in the garden, but now under snow. I’m assuming you used the green cardamom. The white is one of my favourites, but usually specified for pastries.

    PS: You should write a cookbook. I loved reading this for its poetry–not the O’Hara–yours.

  3. Laura says:

    This is exactly why you are my ideal man. Careful, Roger! Better treat him good.

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