Raise your hand if you read The Hunger Games and are counting down the days until the movie. And raise your hand if the descriptions of the food served at the Capitol made your mouth water. If both your hands are raised, this post is for you.
I admit it. I enjoyed the entire series. And while the books slowly depreciated as the series continued, I enjoyed every aspect — from the romance to the struggles and politics and especially the descriptions of the food. It’s not called The Hunger Games for nothing. And while The Hunger Games only touches on food a bit, everything from the Prim’s cheese wrapped in basil leaves to the meals eaten at during the actual games lingered with me for a long time.
Once I finished reading (and rereading) the books, I wanted to experience it one step further without having to be thrown into the game to fight for my life. The easiest solution? Attempt to replicate one dish. And the choice was easy: Katniss’ favorite Capitol dish, lamb stew with dried plums on wild rice.
This recipe is an mashup of Julia Child’s beef bourguignon and one from Fictional Foods‘ version of lamb stew. (Fictional Foods is a fantastic website attempting to recreate dishes from pop culture such as Harry Potter and Angry Birds.)
While the recipe from Fictional Foods was fine, I wanted to develop a richer flavor that can only be accomplished with a long cook time — 3+ hours — and the addition of wine while cooking. And not just any wine: a sweet red wine with hints of dark chocolate. The chocolate wine from Chocolate Shop enhances the sweetness of dried plums (aka prunes) and also helps reduce the gaminess of the lamb as well as tenderize it. It’s savory with a tiny bit of sweetness that’s almost undetectable.
As with beef bourguignon, this dish takes a lot of time but is worth the effort. The end result is lamb so tender it can be cut with a spoon and the taste improves as leftovers. And true to the book, it’s an extremely rich dish, best paired with any leftover wine.
Lamb Stew with Dried Plums
Approximately 10 servings
4 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4 -inch thick pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 lbs of lamb meat from the shoulder, cubed into 2-inch pieces
2 carrots, sliced
2 cups pearl onions, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups chocolate wine
2 – 3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1 crumbled bay leaf
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 cups wild rice prepared according to directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a large skillet, simmer bacon for 10 minutes in water. Drain and dry.
Sauté bacon in 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until slightly brown. Remove bacon leaving fat in pan.
Dry lamb pieces in paper towels. Adding a few lamb pieces at a time, brown in bacon fat over medium-high heat. Place browned meat in large dutch oven. Continue process until all pieces are browned on all sides. Add bacon to dutch oven with lamb.
Using same fat in skillet, brown the sliced carrots and set aside.
Toss the lamb and bacon with salt, black pepper and sugar. Sprinkle meat with flour until lightly coated. Set pot uncovered in the middle position of oven for 4 minutes.
Remove pot from oven and reduce oven to 325 degrees F.
Add wine and beef stock to just barely cover the meat. Stir in tomato paste, garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer on top of stove.
Cover pot and place back in oven allowing meat to slowly simmer for 3-4 hours. Check every hour to make sure liquid barely covers the meat, adding additional wine and stock if necessary.
While beef is cooking, sauté onions and mushrooms in remaining olive oil until lightly browned. Add onions, mushrooms, prunes and carrots to last hour of cooking.
Meat is done when tender.
Serve over wild rice.