Well, it’s that time of year again. That magical time when Cupid’s Arrows fly down from the Heavens and into our Chardonnay as we sit in an overcrowded restaurant across from the One We Love and order an expensive prixe fixe (that for some reason, always features creme brulee for dessert) while hoping that the duck breast won’t show up overcooked (it always does). I don’t have a problem with going out to dinner — far from it, it’s one of my very favorite things to do. That’s why it’s so sad to walk into one of your favorite places and see the Valentine’s Madness playing out in front of you. Because no matter what day of the week Valentine’s Day falls on, it’s guaranteed to be one of their busiest, most hectic nights of the year. But I submit to you that there’s a better way to mark this love-sick occasion.
Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite opportunities to host a date night at home. Think about it — it’s the perfect time of year for a cozy, romantic meal in front of the fire (or the Netflix fireplace program, I’m not here to judge). And it’s the perfect occasion to make something you wouldn’t necessarily reach for on a weeknight, something kind of special that simmers all day and makes you feel fancy when you open a bottle of wine and dig in.
For me, that dish has to be the Rogan Josh (also known as an Indian lamb curry and my favorite thing to make with a leg of lamb). There’s something about it that seems fancy without trying too hard to impress, like a Mercedes with no hood ornament. Because when you simmer this cut of lamb in tomatoes and yogurt and spices…magical things happen. The lamb becomes impossibly tender and the sauce balances into a creamy, spicy delight that begs to be soaked up with naan bread. And all this is somehow achieved without having to renovate your spice cabinet — a Madras curry powder and some garam masala are all that’s needed. That is, besides the rice, the naan, and a hot date to enjoy it with. And for dessert…alright, I promise I won’t tell anyone if you serve the creme brulee.
Rogan Josh (Indian Lamb Curry)
Adapted from Food & Wine
1 2-3 lb boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and cubed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup grapeseed oil, or other neutral cooking oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon madras curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 dried bay leaves
1 14 oz can tomato puree or sauce, unseasoned
5 oz plain yogurt
2 cups water
1 teaspoon garam masala
Place a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat and heat for two minutes. Add the lamb in batches and sear on all sides, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. This will take several batches. After each batch, remove the lamb to a separate plate until all the lamb is seared.
Once the last batch of lamb is removed, let the pot heat for one minute, adding an additional tablespoon of oil if necessary. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the curry powder, turmeric, cayenne and bay leaves and stir to combine. Toast the spices, stirring frequently, about 1 minute. Add the tomato puree, yogurt and water and whisk to combine. Bring up to a boil and return the lamb to the pot. Return to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer the curry for 90 minutes, until the lamb is very tender but not falling apart. Stir in the garam masala and cook an additional 5 minutes. Serve with basmati rice, naan bread and garnish with scallions, if desired.
Serves 6 as a main course, and freezes extremely well