*NOTE: This year I was one of eight lucky bloggers selected to take part in the Charleston Food & Wine Festival’s Lambs + Clams Original Recipe Contest. The idea is basically that each month, selected bloggers will receive shipments of Border Springs Farm Lamb and Rappahannock River Oysters and be challenged to create recipes with the products. Each month there will be a winner picked by a judges panel and “fan votes” (so if you feel inclined to vote for my recipe on the Festival’s facebook page, please feel free to do so!), and the knowledge of being a badass when it comes to cooking lambs and clams. So with that, here’s the final installment – ground lamb and clams!
This entire recipe contest has been an absolute blast. I must give thanks to Craig at Border Springs Farm and Travis at Rappahannock River Oysters for supplying us with incredible, seriously incredible product. Besides being extremely well cared for, delicious products, we would receive everything fresh in the mail the day after they shipped it.
For the final contest, we were given ground lamb and clams. As our weather here in Nashville has been fairly cold, I wanted to make a hearty dish. We’ve been dealing with colder temperatures than we were used to, and just last night a predicted “ice storm” which would have wrecked the roads. Luckily, we didn’t have either ice or storms! Alas, I was prepared either way as I had a big bowl of lamb and clams waiting for me.
The sweet potatoes I get from my favorite local farm, Bells Bend Neighborhood farms, are called “golden nuggets” and are the sweetest, tastiest potatoes I’ve ever eaten. I baked a few off and decided to make a simple gnocchi with them. For a sauce, I decided to make a loose merguez sausage with the ground lamb. Merguez is seasoned usually with coriander, cumin, roasted red bell peppers, garlic, oregano, and some red chile flakes. In addition to those ingredients, I also added a big pinch of aleppo pepper and smoked paprika. Cooked down with onions and tomato paste, the merguez made a great condiment to the gnocchi, as it’s spiciness helped balance the gnocchi’s sweetness. In the same pot that I made the merguez, I threw in clams at the last minute with some white wine to steam. The brininess of the clams, the gamey-ness and spice from the ragu, the sweetness of the gnocchi, with a little bit of parsley and a big squeeze of lemon juice made for a dish that I would eat anytime, rain, shine, or ice storm!
If you are interested in recipes from all the other bloggers in this contest, check out the links below (being updated as posts come in):
Lynda @ Taste Food Blog
Peter @ A Cook Blog
Olga @ Mango Tomato
David @ eat drink RI
Gwen @ Bunkycooks
Heather @ Farmgirl Gourmet
Cecilia @ One Vanilla Bean
Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Merguez Lamb, Steamed Clams
Sweet Potato Gnocchi:
2 lbs sweet potatoes
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. grated cardamom
3/4 lb. fresh ricotta
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus a couple of tablespoons
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. ground lamb
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 roasted red bell peppers, diced
1 T cumin, toasted and ground
1 T coriander seed, toasted and ground
1 T aleppo pepper
1 T smoked paprika
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 T freshly chopped oregano
1/2 cup of diced onions
2 T tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the clams:
2 dozen clams
2 cups of white wine
For the gnocchi:
Bake the potatoes in a 350 oven on a baking sheet until they are completely tender. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh. Put the potatoes through a ricer and stick them in a warm place for 15 minutes (like the warm oven that you've now turned off) so they dry out a bit. Once dry, combin the gnocchi with the egg yolks, nutmeg, cardamom, and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the ricotta. And then add the flour. If the mixture is loose, add more flour until it becomes a dough that barely holds together. Take a big chunk of dough (about 1/4 of the total mixture) and start rolling it into a rope that is about 1 inch wide. Cut the rope into equal pieces to get your individual gnocchi.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the gnocchi for about 3 minutes. Once they float they are done.
For the merguez:
Combine the ground lamb with the garlic, roasted red bell peppers, cumin, coriander seed, aleppo pepper, smoked paprika, parsley, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. If you have a meat grinder, go ahead and run your meat through it with the big die. If you don't have one, no big deal, just combine everything together and leave it as is.
In a saute pan, heat a little bit of olive oil and sweat the diced onions. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the merguez and brown it, another 7 or 8 minutes. Lastly, add the chicken stock and reduce the liquid until it has almost evaporated.
Remove the merguez ragu from the pan, keeping all the fond and fat in the pan.
For the clams:
In the same pot you cooked the ragu, add the clams and then add the white wine. Increase the heat to high and cover the pot. Once the clams open, they are done, about 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan and reduce the white wine mixture until it coats the back of a spoon.
Heat a fry pan over medium high heat. Add a little oil or butter to the pan and sear the sweet potato gnocchi until it's brown on all side. Add the reduced white wine and the lamb ragu, enough to coat the gnocchi pieces you have. Then right before you are about to plate, toss in the clams, chopped parsley, and squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over the whole thing. Enjoy!