By heidijones, member
Posted: January 26th, 2013
Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Spread the lamb on paper towels to dry for 10 to 20 minutes before browning. (You can use this time to chop the onion, celery, and carrot). If the meat is very wet, pat it dry.
In a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, cook the bacon or pancetta, if using, in 1 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned but not crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. Do not wipe out the pan.
If you haven%u2019t used bacon or pancetta, heat 3 Tbs. oil over medium to medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Otherwise, use the bacon fat. Season about one-third of the lamb with salt and pepper and arrange it in a single layer in the pot (there should be at least 1/2 inch of space between the pieces). Brown well on at least 4 sides, adjusting the heat as necessary; each batch should take about 10 minutes to brown. Transfer the lamb to a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet as it browns and repeat with the rest of the lamb, seasoning with salt and pepper before browning. Once all of the lamb is browned, remove the pot from the heat to let it cool for a few minutes.
Pour all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot. (If there is not enough, add oil to equal 2 Tbs.) Return the pot to medium heat, then add the onion, celery, and carrot. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, garlic, cumin, and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
If using bacon or pancetta, return it to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring with the wooden spatula to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Raise the heat to medium high and boil to reduce by about half, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the beef broth and 1-1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil.
Return the lamb to the pot along with any accumulated juice. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
Crumple a 12x16-inch piece of parchment, then flatten it out. (Crumpling makes for easy handling.) Place the parchment directly on the surface of the stew, allowing the ends to come up the sides of the pot. Cover and put in the oven.
After 1 hour of stewing, add the apricots, carrots, leeks, and fennel to the pot. Cover with the parchment and lid, and cook until the lamb is fork-tender, about 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours more (shoulder cuts will take longer than leg cuts).
Stir in the chives. If you like, degrease the stew by laying a clean paper towel over the surface of the stew and gently pushing it into all the bumps and dips, then quickly peeling it off. Repeat as necessary with more paper towels. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve or let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (If you are making the stew ahead, you can skip the degreasing step and lift the solidified fat off the top of the stew with a spoon once it is chilled.)