There are probably as many variations on this dish as there are cooks in Puglia. Usually dandelion greens, escarole, or broccoli rabe are added to the lamb stew halfway through cooking, but sometimes the greens are omitted and the lamb is cooked with potatoes and onions. Or potatoes, onions, and greens may all be cooked together. Mushrooms may be sauteed in a little oil, then added, and a glass of wine tossed in and reduced. In short, this is an all-purpose stew or braise that can be varied depending on what's seasonally available, and if the dish has sufficient liquid, at the end it can be stretched to serve more appetites by pouring it over thick slices of country-style bread.
Wild dandelion greens, when available, will give the most authentically Pugliese flavor to this stew, but I have made it with cultivated dandelion greens and sometimes with Asian greens such as tatsoi or bok choy.
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon tomato concentrate or 1/4 cup Tomato Sauce
3/4 cup dry red or white wine
About 1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup drained canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 6 small canned tomatoes)
3 or 4 sprigs fresh marjoram or oregano
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 stalk celery, including green top, broken in two
1 small dried hot red chile pepper
15 to 18 small new potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half if large; or 4 or 5 baking potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1 1/2 pounds carefully washed greens (see suggestions above)
1 pound small, pickling-size onions, peeled
1 cup thickly sliced mushrooms, preferably wild oyster mushrooms
1 tablespoon finely minced flat-leaf parsley
Handful of slivered pecorino cheese (use a potato peeler)
Heavy casserol or stewpot with cover.
PREHEAT the oven to 300 degrees F.
IN a heavy kettle or casserole, over medium-low heat, gently sweat the sliced onion in 2 tablespoons of the oil until soft and starting to turn golden. Add the lamb pieces, raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat has started to brown.
STIR the tomato sauce or concentrate into the wine and add to the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook rapidly, stirring, until the wine has thrown off its alcohol. Add the chopped parsley and tomatoes, along with the marjoram, bay leaves, salt and pepper, celery, and the chile pepper, stirring to mix well. If you are using potatoes, add them at this time and stir into the stew. When the liquid in the pot comes to a simmer, cover and place in the preheated oven for 1 hour.
MEANWHILE, if you are using greens, clean them very well. Some greens may need to have tough stems removed; most will require coarse chopping. When the lamb has baked for 1 hour, add the greens, or the whole onions, or both, to the pot, setting them on top of the meat and its juices. (If the lamb appears very dry, add a little boiling water to the pan before adding the greens, remembering that most greens will also release quite a lot of liquid.) If using the mushrooms, saute' them quickly in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and add to the pan.
COVER again and return to the oven for another 30 to 45 minutes, by which point both lamb and vegetables should be very soft. Remove from the oven, remove and discard the bay leaves, celery stalks, and chile pepper, and transfer the stew to a heated serving platter. Sprinkle with more black pepper, the minced parsley, and the cheese, which ideally should be shaved very thin, using a vegetable parer, rather than grated.