As autumn sets in and the days get shorter and the evenings a little chillier, we always think of having something warm, comforting and hearty for dinner. Braises or stews are perfect as the simmering pot on the stove or in the oven fills the kitchen not only with inviting, savory aromas but also a cozy warmth. Stews are perfect for company, too, since they can be prepared ahead of time and are actually better the next day as the flavors take a day to meld. Lamb is a classic match for Syrah with its robust meatiness that stands up to the luscious and deep fruit. We made this dish during harvest when we had some folks come over to help us pick, what else, but of course, the Syrah. The rosemary is a usual component in lamb dishes but the mustard and mascarpone are splendid additions that keep the palate guessing.

Braised Lamb Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 lbs. lamb shanks, cut into 2-3″ pieces
½ stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup dry Marsala
3 cups chicken stock

Garnish and Sauce Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces pancetta cut into ¼ ” strips
12 large shallots, peeled
1 6″ branch fresh rosemary
12 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon cumin
1/3 cup dry Marsala
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sweet paprikav
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup mascarpone cheese

To Prepare

1. One or two days before serving (4 hours before serving if pressed for time), heat oil in a large Dutch oven and, in batches, brown shanks on all sides and set aside. Add celery, onion and carrot and sauté about 3 minutes. Add shanks, Marsala, chicken stock, and enough water to cover. Boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until lamb is tender, about 1 ½ hours. Cool, cover and refrigerate.

2. An hour and a half before serving, remove the meat from the shanks, break into 1-inch chunks and return to pot. Mix the marinade ingredients. Add to lamb and cooking liquid and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

3. In a deep skillet, heat olive oil and crisp the pancetta and remove to a bowl. Add shallots and rosemary to the skillet and sauté until shallots are browned. Set aside and discard rosemary.

4. Add garlic and cumin, sauté 3 minutes, then deglaze pan with Marsala and vinegar over medium heat until reduced to about 1/3 cup. Add lamb and marinade and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in paprika and tomato paste and mix well. Stir in shallots and simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Remove lamb and shallots to a serving bowl and keep warm. Boil liquid until thickened, about 20 minutes. Whisk in mascarpone, add the lamb and shallots and serve with cooked pearl barley, or pappardelle. Sprinkle with pancetta.

Serves 4-6

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