Tea Braised Lamb
Perfect for family holiday dinners. Prep time: 1 hour Cook time: 4-6 hours6 h 4
- 1 leg of lamb, bone in
- 6-8 c. strongly brewed Pu'erh Dante (or Poe) tea (multiple infusions work well)
- 1/4 lb. bacon cooked nearly crisp, reserve grease
- 1-2 bulbs of garlic, cloves peeled, most cloves left whole but a few sliced in half
- 2 medium onions, sliced thick
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
- 5-6 sprigs fresh mint, with leaves and stems separated
- 5 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, cut into 3-4 pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
Slit lamb in multiple places using a small, sharp knife, and stuff with garlic clove pieces and rosemary. Rub lamb with mint leaves, salt, and pepper.
In a cast iron Dutch oven, or heavy pot, brown lamb on all sides (including each end) over medium heat. (This can take about 45 min. or more, so be near the stove. Don't turn constantly, allow each side to brown before turning.) If lamb is very lean, use a small amount of bacon grease to avoid sticking. Remove lamb and place on plate. Be careful not to burn any ingredients during the browning process or gravy will be bitter.
Using a cast iron or heavy skillet, toss whole garlic cloves into bacon grease over medium heat. Cook tossing frequently until barely light brown on the outside and beginning to soften. Remove garlic, add onion and carrots to bacon grease, and toss until onions begin to soften. (This step can be completed while browning lamb.) Carrots with remain firm; the goal is to absorb a little bacon flavor, not necessarily cook them.
Onions, garlic, bacon, and carrots should be placed in the bottom of the Dutch oven and lamb placed on top.
Cover lamb 3/4 of the way with tea and add bay leaves, mint stems, and cinnamon sticks. If additional liquid is needed prepare more tea or use water. Simmer, tightly covered, over low heat for 4-6 hours depending on size of lamb. Lamb is done when tender and nearly falling apart. Liquid should stay at a low simmer. If additional liquid is needed during cooking, add more tea or water. Lamb should rest on a plate for 10 min. before slicing.
Cooking liquid can be used as is or can be thickened with a little corn starch mixed in cold water to make gravy.
This dish goes well with roasted root vegetables and mushrooms, and cooked greens.