Executive Chef/Owner Dennis Leary
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
3 lb lamb shoulder, on the bone
6 cloves garlic
4 T dried thyme
2 T black pepper
3/4 cup Kosher Salt
6 cups vegetable or pure olive oil
4 cups chickpeas
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced
2 cups chopped tomatoes
3 T tomato paste
4 dried chiles, preferably mulato or ancho
2 cups apricots
1 cup almonds, toasted
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch cilantro
4 pieces pickled okra (Taste o Texas brand)
METHOD [2 DAYS AHEAD]
In a food processor, combine the garlic, dried thyme, black pepper, and salt. Puree with 1/2 cup of the oil until you have a thick and aromatic paste. Slather the paste over the lamb shoulder, cover tightly and refrigerate.
METHOD [1 DAY AHEAD]
Place chickpeas in a glass or plastic vessel (2 quart capacity) and cover with a generous amount of water. Add one tablespoon of baking soda, stir, and refrigerate overnight stir the chickpeas once or twice; they will expand considerably. Cover the apricots with water, cover tightly, and place them in the refrigerator.
Place the lamb shoulder in a pot just large enough to accommodate it and cover with the remaining oil you may need to add more oil depending on the dimensions of the pot. Cover the pot tightly and place in a 300° oven for four hours, or until the lamb is tender and pulls away easily from the bone.
Check the pot every once in a while to make sure that the oil is not boiling a low simmer, with the occasional bubble, is what you are looking for. Remove the pot from the oven and allow the lamb to cool completely in the oil (an hour or so), then remove the lamb and set it aside on a cutting board.
At this point you can either discard the cooking oil or freeze it it will keep indefinitely in the freezer as long as it is tightly sealed. Wipe the pot, but do not wash it.
Rinse the chickpeas in several changes of water, then add them to the pot in which you cooked the lamb. Add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, onion, and dried chiles. Cover with water, put a lid on the pot, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Reduce the heat to a simmer after 10 minutes or so, and continue to cook for two hours, or until the chickpeas are tender. Remove the chickpeas from the heat, add a generous amount of salt, the tomatoes, the tomato paste, and a splash of good quality olive oil the chickpeas will absorb the seasoning as they sit.
Pull the lamb meat off the bone it should separate fairly easily try to keep the lamb pieces as large as possible (do not shred). Discard all excess fat and sinew (a little fat is fine just get rid of the large chunks). Add the lamb, the lamb bones and the juice from the soaked apricots to the chickpeas. Stir carefully to combine, and refrigerate (pot and all).
METHOD [DAY OF]
A few hours before people arrive, put the chickpeas back in the 300° oven the idea here is to warm all the ingredients together to meld the flavors. Keep the pot covered, and stir occasionally. Add a splash of water, if necessary (a thick stew is what you are shooting for here).
Chop the almonds, apricots, okra, parsley and cilantro, and mix together with a splash of good white wine vinegar and some olive oil. Set aside.
A half hour before the guests arrive, remove all the lamb bones, cinnamon stick and large pieces of chiles (if any are still intact) from the pot and discard. Put the pot on top of the stove and continue to cook over low heat, stirring so that it does not burn (and three days of work are squandered). When the guests arrive, turn off the heat and let the stew cool a bit.
To serve, you can either fold in the apricot-almond mixture at the last minute, or place it on the table to be used as a condiment.