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Babylonian Lamb or Beef and Turnip Stew
The starting point for this dish comes from the translation of a recipe from the Yale Babylonian culinary tablets. To create a fragrant, full-flavored stew, we approximated and adjusted ingredients, and we turned to the oven for steady, constant simmering. Lamb is the traditional meat, and we opted to use lamb shanks, as the marrow gives the braising liquid body and richness; we shred the meat after cooking and discard the bones. We found the stew was just as delicious made with bone-in beef shanks (1 to 1½ inches thick). The culinary tablets reveal that beer was used as a cooking liquid in Mesopotamia, so we developed this dish with a wheat beer for notes of sweetness and fermentation; a lager works, too. Steamed bulgur (recipe follows) is an ideal accompaniment.
12-ounce lamb shanks or 3 pounds beef shanks, trimmed
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
01Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle position. Season the shanks evenly with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the ghee until barely smoking. Add the onions, leeks and cilantro stems. Reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander and cumin, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
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