Agnello al calderotto

Lamb Stew with Bitter Greens and Sheep’s Milk Cheese

An ancient pastoral recipe from Apulia, this stew takes its name from a cooking pot, the caldaio. Sometimes the lamb is cooked in sheep’s milk and later smothered in greens (for a Sardinian version of the milk-braised stew). In this version, the process is reversed: the lamb is first braised with greens, and sheep’s milk in the form of pecorino cheese is added at the end of cooking. This dish is typically prepared with curly endive (chicory), but you can mix the endive with other greens as well. Accompany with roast potatoes or grilled bread.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for browning, plus 3 to 4 tablespoons
  • 3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into -inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Pinch of chile pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped plum tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • Meat stock, if needed
  • 8 to 12 cups coarsely chopped curly endive (chicory) or a mixture of curly endive, dandelion greens, and fennel fronds
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • cups crumbled pecorino cheese

Method

Place a large sauté pan over high heat and film the bottom with olive oil. Working in batches, add the lamb and brown on all sides, adding oil as needed and seasoning with salt and black pepper as you turn the meat. Each batch should take 8 to 10 minutes. As each batch is ready, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a Dutch oven or other heavy pot.

Return the sauté pan to medium heat and add the 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil to the pan. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the onions to the lamb. Pour the wine into the sauté pan and deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the brown bits, then add to the lamb. Add the garlic, chile pepper flakes (if using), and tomatoes and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the meat is tender, about 1½ hours. Check from time to time and add a little stock if there seems to be too little liquid.

While the lamb is cooking, bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Salt lightly, add the greens, and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the greens and the parsley to the lamb during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Season the pan sauce with salt and black pepper. Spoon the stew into warmed bowls and sprinkle with the cheese. Serve at once.

Wine

Pour a local Primitivo or Negro amaro from Felline, Sinfarossa, Santa Lucia, or A Mano, or a Zinfandel from California.