Perfect Pairing – Malbec with Slow-Cooked Lamb Stew

Because of the slow cooking, the lamb practically melts in your mouth.  Which is reason enough to try it, but it also boasts an earthiness that I like with a good Argentinian Malbec.  One of the nice things about Malbecs from Argentina’s Mendoza region is their affordability.  But sadly, their quality is inconsistent, so be sure to confer with a trusted wine merchant for a recommendation before parting with the $20 or so you’ll need to find a good one.

Ingredients (Serves 6+)
 2 Lbs lamb shank
 10 small onions
 4 Cups water
 5 tomatoes – blanched, peeled and chopped (or one can organic chopped tomatoes)
 2 Sprigs fresh parsley
 2 Sprigs fresh thyme
 2 cloves garlic, chopped
 2 Bay leaves
 2 (15 Oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
 1 pound cubed ham3 Sweet Italian sausages

Boil the lamb in the four cups of water until it’s falling-off-the-bone tender.  Remove from heat but RESERVE THE LAMB BROTH for later. Once the lamb has cooled, cut into bite-sized cubes/pieces.

Using a generous square of cheesecloth (photo), secure the parsley, thyme and bay leaf with kitchen twine, leaving a long leash on the garni, so you can easily pull it from the stew later.  Place the herb bundle, the lamb, ham, onions, tomato and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the reserved lamb broth and enough water to equal four cups. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for an hour.

Meanwhile, remove the sausage meat from the casings and brown lightly, breaking up into fork-sized crumbles. Remove sausage from heat, drain off fat, and reserve.

Drain and rinse the beans and set aside.  After the stew has simmered for an hour, stir in the beans and sausage and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, or more if you want a thicker consistency.

The deep flavors of this dish work very well with the tannin and fruitiness of the Malbec, both of which offer warm comfort on a winter evening.

Dave the Wine Merchant

Pinot Noir and Slow-Cooked Lamb Tagine

A couple of months ago, an old friend of ours (Drew) married a new friend of ours (Bridget).  They provided a generous budget and I provided a generous wine list for their grand event.  After the honeymoon they invited us over for dinner.  I was impressed at this amazing meal in the middle of Bridget’s hectic work week.  But when she shared her recipe I saw that it’s made in a slow cooker – this is a dish you can enjoy any night of the week!  That impresses me even more.

Because of the slow cooking, the lamb practically melts in your mouth.  And this dish has a  sweetness that balances its acidity, reflecting and complimenting the dynamic in a good Pinot Noir.

Ingredients (Serves 4+)

3 Lbs lamb (1/2” cubes of shoulder or leg) 1 Bunch fresh cilantro
1 Clove garlic, chopped 2 Tbsp butter
2 Tomatoes, chopped 2 Large sweet onions, halved and sliced thin
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon 1 ½ tsp Ground cumin
2 tsp Sugar ¾ Cup golden raisins
Salt and ground black pepper 2 Cups instant couscous, cooked in lightly salted water and fluffed with a fork
1 Tbsp tom paste (if tomatoes under-ripe)


7 Hours Before Serving

In a 4-Qt Crock Pot (slow-cooker), add all the ingredients from the first column (above) with a ½ Cup of water.  Keeping the Cilantro in its bunch, trim the stems and tie them together with kitchen string, setting the leaves aside.  Nestle the stems into the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Remove and discard the stems prior to serving.

30 Minutes Before Serving

Thirty minutes before serving time, Put the butter, onions and cumin in a sauté pan and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.  When onions are a deep golden brown, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

20 Minutes Before Serving

Skim off as much of the fat from the Tagine as possible and remove the embedded stems.  Reserving a few for garnish, roughly chop the cilantro leaves and stir them with the raisins into the tagine.  Turn the slow cooker to high and continue to cook, uncovered.

About 10 Minutes Before Serving

Prepare the couscous according to package directions.

To Serve
Spoon the couscous onto a serving platter and top with the lamb, then the caramelized onions and finally the whole cilantro leaves you set aside.

Dave the Wine Merchant

An Elegant Syrah & Tapas! Savory Lamb Meatballs

This recipe was originally paired with the Peay Vineyards 2006 Syrah “La Bruma” in the June, 2009 shipment to members of our Grand Cru Selections


The sauce used here is not the typical BBQ sauce often used in meatball recipes.  There is no vinegar to offset the sweetness of the peppers and tomatoes – instead, the counter-balance is provided by the lamb’s natural richness, and the onion/garlic/herb combo.  I think you’ll agree it works well with a softer, elegant Syrah – I partnered this dish with the cool Sonoma Coast syrah from Peay Vineyards, their 2006 “La Bruma” ($47).  See other syrah choices here.

Meatball Ingredients

1 1/2 Lbs. ground lamb 1 Cloves minced garlic
1/2 Cup breadcrumbs 3 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Egg, lightly beaten 1 tsp Coriander
1/2 Cup minced onion 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/3 Cup diced red pepper

Meatball Procedure
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl – minimal handling assures better texture in the finished meatball, so mix gently and stop as soon as ingredients are combined.

Using a small (1 Tbsp) scoop or a soup spoon, form about 48 small, roughly-shaped  meatballs, placing each in a baking pan (with sides).  It’s best if they don’t touch.  Bake for 12 minutes, remove and turn off oven.

Sauce Ingredients

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ Cup diced onion 28 Oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 Clove minced garlic 3 Tbsp minced parsley
½ Cup dry red wine

Sauce Procedure
While meatballs bake, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and stir until lightly golden, ~5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, wine, and black pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat until the wine reduces by half.

Add the tomatoes and simmer on low for 12- 15 minutes more.  Add the meatballs and heat through, then add the parsley just before serving.  A handful of short bamboo skewers turn this potentially messy dish into an easy stand-up meal.

Dave the Wine Merchant