Lamb Stew from 'Stewed'

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[Photograph: Nina Gallant]

Lamb stews are not a staple in my kitchen; I often breeze to more familiar beef or chicken when looking for a low-and-slow stew with hunks of meat. With Dave Becker's unique lamb stew recipe from his cookbook, Stewed, under my belt, however, I may change my shopping habit.

His stew of gently simmered lamb shoulder, port, and root vegetables tastes of lamb (of course) but is far from gamey or chewy. The key is the sweet and savory undercurrent of wine, beef stock, tomatoes, and winter roots that runs beneath the flavor of the lamb. A gentle (uncovered) simmer makes it easy to monitor the texture of the lamb and keep it soft and succulent.

Why I picked this recipe: Rich, meaty stews are a wintertime must-eat; using lamb is a nice twist on the standard beef chuck.

What worked: The ingredient list may seem a bit long for a simple stew, but stick with it. Additions like sliced red grapes and diced parsnips add sweetness to the gamey meat, and the parsley-lemon zest garnish is crucial to cutting the richness of the stew.

What didn't: I couldn't bring myself to add over a stick of butter to an already rich stew. A few tablespoons smoothed out the port and tomatoes without turning the stew into a hugely decadent meal. I also found the liquid amounts a bit too high for two pounds of lamb; the final stew was a bit too soupy for my taste. Finally, be sure to brown the lamb in batches (if you choose to brown it all) to avoid steaming.

Suggested tweaks: You could certainly substitute beef for the lamb if you so desired, and use a full-bodied red wine instead of the port.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Stewed to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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