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Braised Moroccan Lamb

1 bone-in leg of lamb - (3 to 4 lbs)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Freshly-ground black pepper -- to taste
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt -- to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound onion - (1 large) -- coarsely chopped
1 large carrot -- peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk -- coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves -- sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups brown chicken, brown veal or lamb stock
6 ounces tomatoes -- ends removed,
and coarsely chopped
5 1/2 ounces blanched whole almonds -- lightly toasted, see * Note
8 ounces California raisins

* Note: To toast almonds, spread on a baking tray and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Lay the lamb out, skin-side down, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each cumin and pepper and thyme. Roll and tie well with butcher's string. Season the outside lightly with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in an ovenproof casserole slightly larger than the lamb. Brown the lamb on all sides, then pour out the oil.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the casserole, stir in the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and, over medium-high heat, cook until the onion has colored slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin and the rosemary, deglaze the pan with the red wine, and bring to a boil. Pour in the stock, add the tomatoes, season with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, cover, and transfer to the oven. Braise until almost tender, about 1 hour.

Remove the meat and keep warm. With a slotted spoon, separate the vegetable from the sauce and puree in a blender. Scrape back into the sauce and reduce just until the sauce thickens slightly. Strain into a clean casserole and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the meat in the sauce, surround with the almonds and raisins, and return to the oven for about 15 minutes longer, until the lamb is very tender and the raisins are soft. (If the sauce thickens too much, thin with a little stock).

Presentation: Cut the lamb into thin slices and arrange on heated plates. Spoon some sauce over, placing the raisins on and around the meat. Serve immediately. Pass any remaining sauce in a small bowl.

To prepare ahead: In step 5, strain the sauce into a clean casserole. At serving time, return the meat to the pan along with the raisins and continue with the recipe.

This recipe yields 4 to 6 servings.

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