Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rogan Josh from The Ancestral Table

When I first got Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed, her Rogan Josh recipe intrigued me but I never made it.  I think it was a fear of lamb which I had not tried at the time.  While deciding what recipes to review from The Ancestral Table, I saw Russ had his own Rogan Josh recipe and as I now know I like lamb and Sprouts had a sale on lamb, there was no reason not to give this recipe a try.  He has a version of this recipe posted at The Domestic Man, but it is different from the book's.  

I gathered my ingredients and got to work.  

The featured spice in this recipe is Kashmiri red chili pepper.  This ingredient isn't easy to find, unless you know what you are looking for.  I took to the Internet and found some on Amazon, but all of the options there seemed overpriced.  I then found this site that gave me some alternate names to look for at the grocery store.  I scoured the international section at my big box grocery store, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Penzey's and a more gourmet grocery in town and came up with nothing. 

I went to one Indian grocery and came up empty.   I almost gave up and used the suggested substitution, cayenne pepper, but I luckily found myself at a new Indian grocery near my house with a very helpful shop keeper.  I told him what I was looking for and actually found a bottle labeled Kashmiri Chili, but was told to buy a box of Deggi Mirch instead as it was better quality. Look at the beautiful color of this chili powder.  I never would have found or bought this box of mystery chili powder without having had help.  

OK, back to the recipe.  I measured out all of the spices called for in the recipe, but for the cloves. The recipe calls for cardamom pods.  For some reason, I didn't think about this when I was at the Indian grocery store.  A few days later, I was at Whole Foods finishing my shopping and figured they'd certainly have cardamom pods.  Nope.   It was crazy hot outside and I was in no mood to go to another grocery store that day, so I quickly used the power of twitter to see if ground or whole cardamom seeds would do.  Russ said to use 2 teaspoons ground cardamom. Whew, Russ to the rescue.

I peeled and cut up the fresh ginger and roughly chopped the garlic before adding it and the chopped onions to my mini chopper with the cloves to process into a paste.  A note on the onions- lately when I've gone to the store looking for a certain size onion called for in a recipe, all the onions seem to be large.  According to the National Onion Association, 1 medium onion is about 1 cup chopped onion. So I actually used 2 cups of chopped onions, which was less than the 2 most medium looking onions I found at the grocery store.  

After processing, I noticed that the cloves didn't really grind down and it didn't seem that they would, so I declared the paste done.  

Finally, I prepped my lamb.  In the online version of the recipe, Russ uses a beautiful Lava Lake Lamb. Ever since I won an apron from them, I've wanted to try their lamb, but haven't.  When I went to Sprouts to take advantage of the lamb sale, they only had lamb shoulder in chop form. They were about 1/2 inch thick.  

I figured that my chunks wouldn't be as large as Russ's, but they'd likely be just fine.  I trimmed what looked like rib bones off the bottom of the chops and trimmed around the round bones in the chops.  I decided to include the round bones in the dish as well as the meat would fall off and I know from making broths that having bones in the recipe always increases the nutrient levels.  

Anyone know the anatomically correct name for the "round bone" in these chops?

With everything prepped, it was time to start cooking.  I browned the lamb in some homemade ghee in three batches as to not overload the my 5.5 quart dutch oven.    

Once browned, I added the dry spices and the onion/garlic/ginger paste to the pot.  

I gave the pot a stir and then added the tomato sauce.  

I gave the pot another good stir before putting the lid on to let this simmer on low for 1 hour on low.  

While the pot simmered, I chopped up some cilantro.  

I also made a batch of cauliflower rice.  

After an hour, the lamb wasn't quite tender enough, so I set a timer per the recipe instructions for another 30 minutes per the recipe instructions.   I actually turned up my stovetop from low just a tad under medium low.  When the timer went off, the lamb was more tender, but as I had time, I knew it would be better after 30 more minutes, so I set the timer again per recipe instructions.  At the 2 hour mark, I decided it was ready.  

Here is my dinner plate.  

Accessibility & Cost of Ingredients:  There are a few ingredients in this recipe that might be hard to find depending on where you live.  First, the Kashmiri red chili powder may be hard to find.  I hope my adventures trying to find it make your search easier.  I suggest first going to an Indian grocery if you have one in your area.  The box of Deggi Mirch I used cost under $2 at the store. You can always use the suggested substitution of cayenne pepper or order it on the Internet.  

You may also have trouble finding cardamom pods.  My "big box" grocery store doesn't carry them nor did the Whole Foods near my house.  Penzey's does carry them and I bet the Indian grocery has them. It's good to know that ground cardamom can be used.  A whole lamb shoulder can be quite expensive and its a large amount of meat to cook. This spoils my review somewhat, but I am glad I used the chops.  Doing so enabled me to take advantage of a sale and buy just enough meat for the recipe.  

Preparation & Cooking Time:   It took me 41 minutes to prepare this recipe from starting to measure the spices to putting the lid on the dutch oven to simmer.  I ended up simmering this dish for 2 full hours.  This made for a total of 2 hours 41 minutes.   The total cooking and preparation time in the book is 1 hour and 40 minutes.  

So, except for my lamb needing additional hour of simmer time my lamb needed, my time and the book's stated time pretty much matched.  Be prepared if you are making this for company that your lamb might need extra time as well.  

Clean Up:  Clean up was much easier than I expected.  I'm used to having to scrub my dutch oven after using it, but the long simmer of this dish lifted all the fond off the bottom of the pan and it required no real elbow grease to come clean.  Everything else I used went into the dishwasher while the dish cooked.  

The Paleo Review:  Thumbs Up!  What a decadent full flavored dish that is pretty simple to make. When I first took a bite, I was surprised by the amount of spicy heat from the chili.  As Kashmiri red chili pepper is described as being milder than cayenne and similar in flavor to paprika, I falsely got the idea that there wouldn't be much heat.  It wasn't over powering but it was there.  The Kashmiri red chili did add a beautiful red color to the dish.  The flavor of the lamb was the next star star of the dish.  I'm glad that I added the cilantro as Russ suggested as it added a brightness to the dish.  You'll definitely want to serve this with your rice/noodle substitute of your choice as it mellows out the spice a bit.   

I think my substitution of lamb shoulder chops and ground cardamom worked out fine.  

As with most curries, this dish really tasted better the second day after the flavors had time to meld.  

Don't let finding the Kashmiri red chili powder or fear of buying a large lamb shoulder deter you from giving this recipe a try.  With a few lamb shoulder chops, a little planning to buy the spices (or using substitutions), you'll have a great dish.  

This recipe makes quite a bit of food, so invite some friends over and enjoy!