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Gin Braised Lamb Ragu

This post is sponsored by Table Maine

The last time I visited Kennebunkport, ME I attended a gin class at Table. Darren Case of Round Turn Distilling and Andrew Volk of Portland’s Hunt + Alpine Club taught us about the history of gin, the types of gin, and how to make (and drink) a few really great gin cocktails. The class was a lot of fun, and I have been drinking more gin since then!

Here is a picture from the class:


Wanting to branch out from just using gin in cocktails, I thought I would try cooking with it. I knew lamb would stand up to the strong flavors in gin, and I was really craving a slow braised dish, so braising lamb in gin was a no-brainier. Tomatoes, some onion and mushroom made a hearty sauce for fresh pasta. This was one of the best meals I have made in awhile!
Start with an American lamb shoulder, the perfect cut of lamb for a slow braise. Chop it up into cubes. Onion, carrot, mushroom, garlic, gin, and a can of tomatoes make up the sauce. A pinch of rosemary and thyme also go a long way. Nothing crazy going on, just quality ingredients treated really well. Put this into the oven for about 4 hours, stirring every hour or so. Meanwhile, time to make the pasta. Just roll out the sheets to the third thinnest setting, which is still pretty thick for pasta. If you don't want to make homemade pasta for this dish, you can always substitute store bought. I would suggest the fresh store bought kind for a dish like this. Then roll it up with plenty of flour and slice it into rustic pappardelle. Drying it on sheets with plenty of flour is really important to the process. Fresh pasta only takes a few minutes to cook. Once it's reached al dente, toss it right in with the lamb sauce. The lamb has basically melted into super tender shreds at this point, and the tomatoes and gin have thickened into a beautifully rich sauce that clings to the noodles. A little parsley and pecorino cheese finish it off perfectly. The gin in this dish is subtle, but the earthy flavors pair well with the pasta and lamb. And as you take more and more bites (and trust me I went back for seconds) you start to notice that distinctive gin flavor.  If you happen to have a gin cocktail to pair with this, the flavors come out even more. Check out the Table website for more info on upcoming classes and events!  A ticket to a class or pop-up could be that unique Christmas gift you didn't know you were looking for.
Click here for the fresh pasta recipe. Keep it thick with wide noodles as the pictures above demonstrate.

Gin Braised Lamb Ragu

  • 1.5 Pounds American Lamb Shoulder
  • 1 Onion (diced)
  • 2 Carrots (diced)
  • 4 Ounces Mushrooms (diced)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 28 Ounces Canned Crushed Tomato
  • 1.5 Cups Gin
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 Batch Fresh Pasta (link above this recipe)
  • Parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 275.
  2. Chop the lamb into 1 inch cubes and season with salt and pepper. In a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot with a little bit of oil, brown the lamb on high heat to get a nice color on it. Remove from pot.
  3. Add in the onion and carrot and cook about 10 minutes to soften. Add in the mushrooms and garlic and cook another 3 minutes. Add in the tomato and gin, and return the lamb to the pot. Add in the rosemary and thyme. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Put into the oven at 275 and cook for about 4 and a half to 5 hours, stirring every hour or so. Once the lamb starts shredding on its own and all the bigger fat chunks are gone, you know it is done. It should be deep red and very thick. Stir in the 1/2 cup of pecorino
  5. When the sauce is about done, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in your fresh pasta and cook only about 4 to 5 minutes. If using store-bought, follow the directions on the package for cook time.
  6. Once cooked, put the pasta directly into the sauce along with a big ladle of the pasta cooking water and stir well to coat and combine. Be somewhat gentle to not break the noodles, but if you made them thick and dried them well, they will be fairly resilient.
  7. Serve with a handful of parsley and pecorino