Colorado Lamb and Kelly Liken’s Harissa

April 21 2010, 10:05 AM
Colorado is the fourth largest sheep and lamb producer in the U.S., and ranches here have gained a national reputation for producing lamb with unparalleled flavor and texture. Two weeks ago, all that flavor was on display at the Taste of Vail’s Colorado lamb cook-off: lamb tamales. Lamb pastrami. Lamb Bratwurst. Competing chefs demonstrated just how versatile the tender meat can be. The winning entry, from chef Hunter Smith at Vail’s Kelly Liken, was a shaved confit leg of lamb served with grilled ramps, crisp katifi (shredded filaments of baked phyllo dough), and harissa paste. While the confit may be too labor intensive for most home chefs, the harissa---a smoky, North African hot sauce---is an easy-to-make accompaniment to any lamb dish. Here's a recipe: Harissa Paste 2 ounces garlic 2 ounces canola oil 3 ounces roasted red peppers (cleaned, peeled, and seeded) 1 ounce guajillo chile 0.2 ounce whole cumin 0.2 ounce whole coriander 0.2 ounce cardamom pods 6 ounces tomato paste 1 lemon (zested and juiced) Salt and pepper to taste Combine garlic, oil, peppers, chiles, and spices, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and lemon zest and juice. Increase heat until the tomato is slightly caramelized. Cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. Purée in blender until smooth. Strain and season with salt and pepper. 12 Vail Rd., Vail, 970-479-0175