Monday, October 12, 2009

Recipe: Lamb Stout Stew

I love Fall. Sure, people say that Southern California doesn't have seasons (or at most we have two: Winter and Spring), but there's definitely been a change in the air the last few weeks. The weather is getting cooler. People are putting up decorations for Halloween. It's getting dark earlier and earlier every day. Plus, there's just something in the air. A calm quiet that I can't put my finger on. It's all so cozy, you know? Bring on the cider!

My favorite part of Fall, at least this year, is definitely the food. Apples, pears, and pomegranates are everywhere. Not to mention squash! But I won't get into squash here because that's a whole other post. Let's just say I like homey foods, comfort foods. When I cook, I don't tend toward recipes that are too fussy. I like bold flavors from simple foods. Isn't that what comfort is all about?

Husband is a big stew person. Being that I wasn't a fan of big hunks of meat until very recently, I was never a big fan of stew. Well ever since I've started cooking my own food my tastes have changed dramatically. There is now not a food I know that I would own to not liking. (Although I still would be happy to go my whole life without trying sea urchin. It looks like a tongue! Bleck!) Anyway, I made stew, I tried it, I'm converted to Husband's view. Stew is awesome. The meat is succulent and tender, the veggies add great texture and flavor, and the broth takes on all the flavors deliciously! Oh man, the broth. The Guinness really added a nice complexity to it that kept it from being bland and boring. Booze just makes everything taste better, doesn't it? (That's me buttering you up for my next equally alcohol-laden recipe coming up.)

Lamb Stout Stew

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Beef Stout Stew (similar to this one, minus the herbs and garnish)

Makes 6-8 servings

  • 2 lbs lamb stew meat
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 3 TB butter, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 stalk leeks, white and light green parts sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms (or any variation), sliced
  • 2 cups stout, like Guinness
  • 2-3 cups chicken or beef broth (I had chicken on hand, but beef would probably go better)
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard
  • 8-10 cipollini onions, peeled and quartered (or pearl onions whole)
  • 1 lb baby white potatoes, halved
  • 1 TB rosemary, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat large stock pot (or dutch oven if you're lucky enough to have one) over high heat. Add the canola oil and 1 TB of butter. When hot, sear the lamb in batches until you get a nice, crusty brown on all sides (about 3-4 minutes total per batch). Make sure you don't crowd the pieces in the pot or they won't sear properly. After one batch is done, move the meat to a bowl while you cook the rest. It took me 4 batches. If the pot gets too dry between batches add another tablespoon of butter, or more oil. Whatever floats your boat. Note: If you use a non-stick pot to brown the meat, then you won't have yummy bits to deglaze afterwards, so I recommend a non non-stick pot (a stick pot?).
  2. Once the lamb is done browning add enough chicken stock to deglaze the pot, about 1/2 cup. Use a wooden spoon to break up all the cooked-on lamb remnants. Once all the delicious remnants are free from the bottom of the pot and mixed with the broth, pour the liquid into the bowl with the lamb. Just let them stew together and forget all about them for awhile. Get it? Stew? Ha!
  3. Put the pot back on the stove, turn the heat down to medium, and add the remaining tablespoon of butter (you could use canola oil or olive oil, I just think butter works best for this homey recipe). Add the onions and garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the leeks, celery, and mushrooms and let 'em sweat out their deliciousness for about 3-5 minutes or until you have some room in the pot again. If anything sticks to the pot during this period, you can use some chicken broth to deglaze it a bit. I had no sticking issues.
  4. Clear a small spot on the bottom of the pot and add the flour and mustard. Mix the two together until they form a paste and let cook for a minute or two (to cook off that raw flour flavor), then stir the mixture into the vegetables.
  5. Add the lamb and all the wonderful drippings that have accumulated back into the pot. Add the stout and enough broth to cover the meat (or more if you're into broth). Bring stew to a boil and then partially cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. You want to keep a steady and gentle simmer, not too violent, not too docile. Skim the fat that accumulates on the surface periodically.
  6. Add the cipollini onions and potatoes. Partially cover and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, or until the additions are tender.
  7. Stir in the rosemary, salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you desire, and let it work itself around the stew for a few minutes.
  8. Serve either in a bowl by itself, or spoon over some egg noodles or brown rice. (I used brown rice noodles!)

Note: Feel free to use this recipe as a base and change the ingredients how you see fit! Use beef instead of lamb if you want (it sure is cheaper!). Or leave out the mushrooms if they don't float your boat. This recipe is hard to mess up as long as you follow the general technique.

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