Chinese lamb with cumin
Whole cumin seeds, jalapeño, red bell peppers, garlic, and onions deliver a lively taste.
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Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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Trim excess fat from the lamb and cut it into bite-sized chunks. Arrange lamb in a single layer between sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound until thin. Season lamb with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a a large nonstick sauté pan or skillet over medium flame. Add the cumin seeds and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until seeds become fragrant and a few of them start to pop. Stir in garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
Add lamb in a single layer (and drizzle in more oil, if needed) and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned. Turn lamb and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer lamb to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Some of the garlic and seeds will transfer with the lamb, which is fine.
Add onion and jalapeno and red bell pepper to the pan, again drizzling in a little more oil, if needed – you don’t want to scorch anything, just sweat it and only slightly brown it). Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, if using. Toss to coat with oil and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Return lamb and any accumulated juices to the pan, toss to combine and cook for another minute or so. Add green onion, toss to combine and remove from heat. Serve immediately over rice.
Lamb shoulder, the flavorful cheap cuts. I used lamb shoulder chops for this dish; they’re affordable and marbled with fat for flavor. Trim off excess fat and cut as much meat from the bones as possible. Save the bones to toss into a pot for some broth in the future. Buy about 2 pounds of bone-in chops to get the 1 pound or so of meat for this dish.
Fire it up. You would think an entire jalapeño pepper, seeds and all, would add some heat to this dish. Not the anemic ones we’re getting these days. Add about a quarter to a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes (or more, depending on your jalapeños and taste buds). While I said this was optional in the ingredients list, I highly recommend it—this dish needs a nice spicy kick. For a more authentic approach, add a few whole dried red chili peppers to the pan when you’re sautéing the cumin seeds. Just make sure you discard them when you plate the Lamb with Cumin. You do not want to bite into one of these.
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