U Tianu d'Agnellu Incu u Castagne
Region: France, Corsica
Difficulty: Medium Difficulty
This stew of lamb and chestnuts cooked in a gravy of red wine and tomato is a delicious contemporary concoction of the chef of L'Ondine restaurant in Algajola, on the northern shore of Corsica. The chef uses the ubiquitous chestnut and the concepts of Corsican food from centuries past. It is a perfect example of what a chef with historical sensibilities can do.
The chef served it with slices of baby zucchini stuffed with a ragout of ground veal and tomato and a double-layered timbale of red chile and bell pepper custard topped with chestnut custard. Given Corsica's historic isolation I imagine the tomato was introduced rather late.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Preparation Time: 2:45 hours
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes. Remove, let cool, trim off the fat, and cut into large cubes. Set aside. Leave the oven on.
2. Meanwhile, lay the chestnuts on their flat sides and carefully make an X on the rounded side with a paring knife, without going too deep. Arrange the chestnuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and, once the chestnuts are cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the now brittle shell and set the nut aside.
3. In a large casserole, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the onion and garlic together until the onion is yellow, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn't burn, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lamb cubes and brown for 1 minute.
4. Pour in the wine, increase the heat to high, and reduce the wine by half, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the tomato puree and water, season with salt and pepper, and simmer until the lamb is tender, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the chestnuts and cook until the sauce is a thick ragout, another 20 to 30 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley and with a side of rice if desired.