Lamb Stew over Charred Eggplant Puree
This is a riff on Sultan’s Delight, a traditional Turkish dish of braised lamb over a roasted eggplant mash. Like all “traditional” dishes, there are countless variations on the theme, and you have a lot of flexibility in how you season the dish. I eliminated the typical addition of flour to thicken the eggplant, and I really don’t think anyone would miss it. The eggplant is silky, smokey, and rich, and if you miss having things like polenta as a bed for stews, you should really give this a try. We have a lot of great local lamb in the area, and for this I used the less-expensive cut of lamb shoulder chops. They are boney and rustic, and the bones add great flavor to the stew. If you don’t want to deal with bones in your stew you can substitute some boneless shoulder or stew meat.
To get the best flavor from the eggplant you want to cook it over direct flame–so either with an outdoor grill or over an indoor gas burner. Since we are still blanketed in snow I employed the somewhat time-consuming method of using tongs and cooking the eggplant over the open flame of a gas burner. It takes about ten minutes per eggplant, turning every few minutes, until the skin is crackled and the flesh is starting to soften. The eggplant will start to collapse on itself when the center is cooked. At this point you just let them cool, then remove the stem ends and scrape off the blackened skin.
Can you just roast them, instead? Yes, and this will still be really good, it will just be missing the smokey element.
This is a perfect dish for a snowy day that calls for something warm and filling.
Lamb Stew over Charred Eggplant Puree
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat (or ghee)
- 2 pounds lamb shoulder chops (4-5 chops)
- 1 cup chopped white onion
- 7 ounces tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 8 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and halved
- 3 cups water
For the puree
- 2 medium eggplants
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- juice of one lemon
- 1/2 cup grated, aged cheese, such as Parmesan or Asiago
- salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- You want a heavy pot with a lid to braise the lamb–I used a 4-quart Le Creuset. Place the pot, uncovered, over a burner set to medium-high heat. Add the bacon fat or ghee and let it melt. Add the lamb chops and lightly brown them on both sides.
- When the chops are browned, turn off the burner and add all of the remaining stew ingredients to the pot: onion, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, garlic, mushrooms, and water. Cover the pot and put it in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours, or until the lamb falls off of the bone when you move it with a fork. Check the liquid levels in the pot after an hour and a half, and add additional water, if needed.
- While the lamb is braising, make the eggplant puree. Char the eggplant over a gas burner (or using an outdoor grill), using tongs to turn it every few minutes so it will cook evenly. When the skin is charred and the eggplant is soft enough that it is starting to collapse, move it to a plate to cool down enough to handle.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the stem ends off of the eggplants, and to scrape off all of the charred skin. Cut the eggplants into large hunks and transfer them to a food processor (you can also mash this by hand, using a fork or a potato masher). Add the butter, white pepper, lemon juice, and grated cheese to the food processor and then pulse until you have the texture you like. Taste and adjust the salt, as needed.
- When you are ready to serve the stew, spoon the eggplant puree onto a serving platter. Use a large spoon to break up the lamb in the pot, and then spoon the hot stew over the lamb puree. Serve immediately.