I love Lamb. I really do. I think at the end of the day it’s something that many people really love but are afraid to work with. But there’s one reason to start buying it instead of beef. Flavor.
Beef is always good, it’s always available, it’s fairly affordable (even the good stuff). With this being the first week of spring, I thought it would be a good idea to bring one great last winter dish out from the archives. I first learned this dish in culinary school but have since modified it to reflect something I am very proud to and anxious to make. I do have a few suggestions when making Lamb Stew;
- Get to know your butcher – know him by name, make sure he knows you. If you want the best, make sure your friends with the people who can get you the best.
- Go for the shoulder cut – Flavor. Flavor. Flavor.
- The dish is a Lamb Stew, not a bowl of stewed lamb – a few ounces of meat per portion with a starch and mushrooms is more than enough, you don’t need a pound of meat per portion.
I really like serving this with pasta, but it is also extremely good with Polenta (and grits!). It’s also perfectly acceptable to serve it over an ultra thick slice of crusty country bread grilled with Olive Oil. The char marks from the bread on the grill or super delicious and if the bread is indeed crusty, the liquid from the stew will rehydrated it and give you the perfect lamb-y piece of bread.
Provencal Lamb Stew – 4 Portions
2 lb lamb shoulder, deboned, 1″ cube
6 oz shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 carrots, small dine
1 onions, small dice
1 celery stalk, small dice
10 White peppercorns
4 juniper berries, crushed
2 thyme sprig
5″ sprig of dried Lavender
4 bay leaves
1/2 pint dry white wine
2 quarts Veal Stock (Beef Stock is fine; Lamb Stock is best but is usually impossible to find unless you make it yourself)
Black Pepper, as needed
Salt, as needed
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
6 oz butter, cubed, keep cold
- Season lamb with salt and black pepper.
- Oil a pot and turn to medium high. When oil is just below smokepoint, add the lamb and brown well on all sides. (Don’t be afraid of the smoke, the smoke means it’s browning properly.)
- When the lamb is fully browned, remove from the pot and reserve. Add a small amount of oil and sweat mirepoix until just barely translucent. Add the mirepoix and turn the heat down the medium low. Sweat the mirepoix until everything is soft.
- Wrap the ingredients for the sachet in cheesecloth and tie shut with butcher’s string.
- When the Mirepoix is fully sweated, deglaze with the white wine and reduce au sec (until almost dry).
- Add the Lamb and the 2 quarts of stock (or enough to cover the lamb entirely by 1″ – must cover by 1″)
- Keep the heat on medium-low and cover with tight-fitting lid. Cook 90 minutes, mix once half-way through cooking.
- Meanwhile, add some oil so a very hot pan and bring to just below smoke point. Add the mushrooms and sear quickly. Season with salt and pepper. Remove and reserve until later
- When the lamb is fork tender remove it and reserve. Remove the sachet and discard. Place entire contents in a blender and blend for 30 seconds until smooth. Pass through a chinois (a colander lined with cheese cloth will also work). Discard the chunky bits that do not pass.
- Bring the passed liquid to a boil and reduce until only 1 quart remains. Turn the heat off, add the cold, cubed butter and whisk until it is nappé. Add the Lamb and mushrooms, mix, cover and let reheat for 5 minutes. Prepare and plate starch.
- Plate stew over starch, garnish with finely chopped parsley if desired.