Chilindrón de Carnero

Lamb Stew

In the small fishing village of Santa Fe on the outskirts of Havana, the Pacheco family has a simple paladar (a private restaurant) in the garden of their house overlooking the sea. Our friend Susana, who is a great cook herself, and her charming son George took us to this special place.

The menu depends on what fish was freshly caught that morning and what meats, raised by the family and neighbors, are available. All of the dishes are prepared with vegetables and herbs gathered fresh from the garden. To begin, we ate small red snapper, fried very simply and gently in oil until the skin was crisp and golden, and a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, sliced onions, and lettuce. Then came a large platter of chilindrón, a spicy dish that may be made either with lamb or kid.

Kid especially is associated with the Afro-Cuban cooking and culture of the island. A peppery chilindrón of kid is a dish that might please Changó, the Santería orisha (deity) of Thunder, the Drums, and Dance. Serve the stew with Pan de Cazabé (Modern Cassava [Yuca] Bread), or with boiled potatoes or white rice.

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Ingredients

  • 2 to 2½ pounds boneless lamb or kid shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes; or 3 to 3½ pounds lamb shanks or kid shanks
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 1 large lime)
  • 1½ to 2 tablespoons minced garlic (3 to 6 cloves)
  • 1 to 2 ajis cachucha, seeded and minced; or ½ to 1 red jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon hot paprika, or to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup vino seco (Cuban dry cooking wine) or white wine
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons brown sugar, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)
  • ½ cup Spanish green olives stuffed with pimiento, sliced
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley

Method

Place the lamb in a large nonreactive baking dish or bowl. Add the lime juice, garlic, chiles, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, and bay leaf, if using. Turn the lamb to coat it with the seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the lamb from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Reserve the marinade. Dredge the lamb pieces in the flour, shaking off any excess. In a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil. Brown the lamb in batches, without allowing the pieces to touch. As the pieces are browned, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and sauté over medium heat until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, reserved marinade, and brown sugar, stirring to incorporate any browned pan juices. Return the lamb to the pot and bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover and cook in the oven for about 1½ hours, until the lamb is very tender. Stir, taste, and correct the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper, if needed. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the olives and parsley and serve.