It goes against nearly everything in my gut to like dumplings. I really, really do not like soggy bread and, texturally speaking, I should loathe dumplings. But I don’t. Not.at.all. In fact, I have another dumpling recipe waiting in the wings to post soon after this one. Because I freaking love them.
I feel like a broken record here, but I’ll say it again… “I’ve had this recipe saved for a really long time, but finally got around to making it.” Nearly 3 years ago, I took to organizing my saved magazine and online recipes, and this comes from the binder that stemmed from that organization. I’m always so annoyed when it takes me so long to make a recipe that’s so great.
This recipe will not be winning any awards in the frugality department. It had been ages since I’d purchased lamb shoulder, so I had forgotten how crazy expensive it can be – and a whole shoulder of 3-4 lbs. is clearly going to cost a pretty penny. But, you know how much I adore lamb (not to mention going to the butcher) so it had to be done. That said, I have no doubts that this recipe would be delicious with pork shoulder or beef chuck. Plus, we ended up freezing a couple portions for another dinner, later.
I thought this would be spicier than it was (I was almost worried, in fact). It had a nice little kick, but definitely nothing major. I think the chipotles mellow out while cooking and New Mexico chilies (at least, the ones I had around) are not terribly spicy themselves. I actually really, really loved the spicy-without-being-too-spicy flavor, and the depth of this dish, not only from using dried chilies in the broth, but from the lamb stewing for hours.
One tip I picked up from the other dumpling recipe I made is to wrap the lid in a clean kitchen towel while simmering the dumplings. This seems to make them a bit less soggy/more firm to the touch, so I’ll do that next time and have added that step below. You’ll want to make this stew a day ahead of time, not only because it tastes better that way but also because it’s much easier to remove the fat from the top after it’s chilled.
Lamb Chili with Masa Harina Dumplings
Adapted from Gourmet
10 dried New Mexico chilies (about 2.5-3 oz.)
3 cups water, divided
2 cups beef broth
3.25 lb. boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1.5″ pieces
2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. ground cumin
1.5 tsp. dried oregano
3 Tbsp. chopped chipotles in adobo
chopped cilantro or sliced green onions, for serving
3/4 cup masa harina
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper, a few turns
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
To make the chili:
Simmer the chilies in 2 cups of water until very soft, about 20 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of cooking water and drain the rest. Stem the chilies, keeping the seeds, and blend in a food processor with the reserved water, until smooth. Force the mixture through a mesh strainer and into a bowl.
Pat the lamb dry and then season with salt and pepper. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to a Dutch oven and heat over medium-high until shimmering. Add the lamb, in 4 batches, and brown on each side (about 4 minutes per batch). Transfer to a bowl, and drain any excess fat from pot.
Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to the pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook the onion, garlic, and bay leaves with a small pinch of salt until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add cumin and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the chili puree and chipotles, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add the lamb and any accumulated juices, the remaining 1 cup water, and the beef broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until lamb is very tender, 2.5-3 hours.*
To make the dumplings:
Stir together the masa harina, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Cut in the butter with 2 forks or a pastry blender, until it resembles a coarse meal. Add buttermilk, stirring just until moistened (don’t overmix).
Skim the fat off the chili and discard the bay leaves. Season the chili to taste. Drop dumplings by the tablespoon-full into the pot, about 2 inches apart. Reduce heat to low. Wrap a clean kitchen towel around the lid of the pot, and then cover the chili. Simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes, or until dumplings are firm to the touch.
Garnish with cilantro or green onions.
*At this point, you can (and probably should) cool and refrigerate your chili. The next day or several hours later, scrape the fat off the top. Bring the chili to a simmer, and then move ahead with making and simmering the dumplings.