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Braised Lamb Shoulder with Goat Cheese Gnocchi

Braised Lamb Shoulder with Goat Cheese Gnocchi

From: Chef Holly Smith, Café Juanita, Seattle. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

2½ lb. lamb shoulder, cut into 4 pieces
to taste, kosher salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, cut into ¼” dice
2 carrots, peeled, cut into ¼” dice
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup dry red wine
4 cups chicken stock
¼ cup canned tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar, divided

Goat Cheese Gnocchi:
1 lb. slightly soft fresh goat cheese
1 small egg
1 heaping Tbsp. kosher salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling gnocchi

Gnocchi Sauce:
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, divided
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¾ cup dry vermouth
½ cup chicken stock
to taste, kosher salt and cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh marjoram, picked, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon, chopped

1 small sugar pie pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups water

For lamb: Pat lamb dry with paper towels. Season all over with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large braising pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add oil. When oil is hot, add seasoned lamb pieces. Sear until nicely caramelized on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove lamb pieces to a plate. Add onion and carrots to pan. Cook and stir until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

Deglaze pan with wine, stirring to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add stock and tomatoes; stir well before returning the lamb and any juices back to the pan. The liquid should cover the lamb pieces almost completely. Add thyme and rosemary. Remove from heat and tightly cover pan with foil or an ovenproof lid.

Place pan in the oven. Cook for 2 hours at 280°F or until meat is so tender it is falling apart.

Remove pan from oven; allow to cool for 30 minutes. Remove lamb from braising liquid with a slotted spoon. Put lamb pieces on a plate or in a large bowl. Remove herb sprigs; discard. Return pan and braising liquid to the stove. Add 1 Tbsp. of vinegar. Reduce liquid over medium-high heat until it has a saucy consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Lower heat to medium; add lamb pieces back to pan with any juices. Continue to reduce braising liquid while gently breaking apart lamb pieces using a wooden spoon. Season to taste with remaining vinegar, salt and pepper if needed.

For gnocchi: In a large bowl, combine cheese and egg. Add salt. Mix well with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add ½ cup flour; combine well. Add remaining flour; mix gently but thoroughly until a dough forms. Do not over-mix the dough or gnocchi will be heavy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for up to 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and season generously with salt. Boiling the gnocchi in well-seasoned water ensures they will have as much flavor as possible.

Fill a pastry bag with a ¾” tip. Fill it with the dough. With water boiling, hold bag in one hand and a small sharp knife in the other. Squeeze bag and twist, cutting dough at 1” intervals as it comes out of the bag.

Boil 15 to 20 gnocchi in each round. When they float, give them a few more seconds before removing from the water with slotted spoon onto a baking sheet. Gnocchi will be delicate while warm but will become more durable as they cool. Continue boiling gnocchi in batches. Cooked gnocchi can be kept in refrigerator for 24 hours.

For gnocchi sauce: In large sauté pan over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. butter and oil. When butter has melted and is foamy, add shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes or until ingredients are translucent but not yet brown.

Deglaze pan with vermouth; reduce amount of liquid by half. Add stock; bring to a simmer. Reduce liquid by half again; add remaining butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to cook for several minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat; add marjoram and lemon zest. Season to taste with additional salt and cayenne as desired.

For pumpkin: Using a vegetable peeler or a small sharp paring knife, peel pumpkin. Cut it in half and scoop out seeds. Discard seeds or reserve for toasting. Cut pumpkin halves into 2” cubes.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine sugar, cinnamon stick and water. Bring liquid to simmer and stir until sugar dissolves. Add pumpkin cubes. Simmer over very low heat until they begin to become tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Allow pumpkin to cool in syrup before refrigerating.

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