Lamb & Pearl Barley Stew With Fresh Herb Gremolata
- 12 oz. unsmoked (green) bacon
- 4 lbs. gigot or rack chops from a shoulder of lamb, not less than 1 inch thick
- well-seasoned all-purpose flour, for dusting
- extra virgin olive oil
- 12 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 lb. 9 oz. whole small onions
- 12 oz. carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
- 51⁄2 oz. parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced
- scant 21⁄4 cups pearl barley
- 3 qts. lamb or chicken stock
- sprig of thyme
- sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE GREMOLATA:
- 4 Tbs. chopped mixed herbs (such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil and mint)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 generous tsp. lemon zest, grated or finely chopped
- sea salt flakes, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
First make the stew. Cut the rind off the bacon (if necessary) and cut into approximate 1⁄2-inch cubes. Divide the lamb into eight pieces and roll in the well-seasoned flour.
Heat a little oil in a 10-inch/3-quart casserole dish over medium heat and sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove to a plate. Sauté the mushrooms, season well and set aside. Add the lamb to the casserole dish in batches, with a little more olive oil if necessary, and sauté until golden. Heat control is crucial here: The pan mustn’t burn, yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. Remove the lamb to a plate. Add another splash of olive oil to the pan and sauté the onions, carrots and parsnips until golden. Return the bacon and lamb to the casserole dish, together with the pearl barley. Season well, pour in stock, add the thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 1-11⁄4 hours until meltingly tender; the cooking time will depend on the age of the lamb and how long it was sautéed for. Add the mushrooms about 30 minutes before the end.
Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Mix together the chopped herbs and garlic in a small bowl, add the lemon zest and season to taste with a pinch of salt.
Once the casserole is cooked, remove the thyme and season to taste. Leave the casserole to sit for 15-30 minutes to allow the pearl barley to swell. (If necessary, the casserole can be reheated later in the day or the next day.) Serve bubbling hot, sprinkled with the gremolata.