Winter Lamb Stew

14 12 2009

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This week I was feeling adventurous at the farmers’ market and picked up a pound of lamb leg cubes in addition to my typical winter root veg bounty.  I’m usually not one to purchase a protein without a plan, but it was so stunning I simply could not leave it there.

The gentleman at the Loncito’s booth assured me the best possible accompaniment would be the turnips four stalls down, so I grabbed some of those as well and pondered my options.  Stew seemed a natural application.

Now, I realize lamb is not the most risqué meat out there, but I’ve barely dabbled in it—and never very successfully—so I thought I’d go the simple route and use the basic stew method I usually use for beef.  The results were pure magic.

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Winter Lamb Stew
(again, these measurements are rough approximations)

1lb lamb leg cubes
salt
pepper
1/4c fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
2c red wine (I used a big, spicy Shiraz)
1t poultry seasoning
1/2t dried thyme
1/4t freshly-grated nutmeg
1 large sweet potato, 3 large carrots, 4 parsnips and 2 medium turnips, all in generous chunks
2c water
1T chicken base
1T cornstarch

First, I salted, peppered and browned the meat. Most recipes call for oil to achieve maximum caramelization, but I generally find that when you’re stewing, this is unnecessary. A searing-hot pan did the trick nicely. I the added my onions and tomatoes and cooked for about five minutes—until the lamb was mostly-cooked and the veggies had softened.

Next, I added the wine, poultry seasoning, thyme and nutmeg and brought the mixture to a boil. I reduced it to a simmer and let it go for a little over an hour.

Normally, I would have added all the veggies in much earlier and tossed the whole thing into the oven for ease of cooking, but I thought I’d try something different this go ’round, and it payed off in spades.

Once the meat was tender I added in the chunked carrots, sweet potato, parsnips and turnips, and covered with a water/chicken base broth approximation. I simmered for an additional 20 minutes. Given the relatively short cooking time as stews go, the broth was thinner than I wanted. I made a quick slurry of cornstarch with a few ounces of water, mixed it in and brought it to a boil. Tada! Stew!

What made this batch so remarkable was the way the flavors of the root vegetables not only remained individually intact, but also added to the sweetness and overall complexity of the broth in a brilliantly unexpected way.

I served each bowl with a scoop of nutty, brown rice. Barley would be lovely, too—it definitely needs a hearty grain.

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