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.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 3 if discarded after searing the lamb
- 2 pounds boneless lamb leg, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- Flour, for dusting
- 1 stick unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 cup carrots, scrubbed, 1/4-inch dice
- 2 cups Spanish onions, 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 cup celery root, peeled, 1/4-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- 2 cups ruby port wine
- 5 cups beef stock
- 1 cup stewed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup turnips, scrubbed, 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 cup parsnips, scrubbed, 1/4-inch dice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup red grapes, thinly sliced
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Lemon zest
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, season lamb meat with the salt and pepper, dust with flour, place in the hot pan, and sear on all sides until nice and brown. Set aside.
If oil is burnt, then you must rinse out the pan and add more oil; if it is just brown, then it is perfect for the next phase of preparation. Next, add butter to the pan, allow it to melt, and then add carrots, onions, celery, and herbs. Sauté this mixture until veggies start to brown, and then return reserved seared lamb to the pan.
Add port wine, bring to a boil, and immediately add beef stock, tomatoes, turnips, parsnips, and bay leaf. Bring stew to a boil, decrease the heat to low and allow it to simmer for at least 90 minutes, or until lamb is tender. Remove from heat, fish out bay leaf, and stir in grapes.
Evenly distribute stew among serving bowls, garnish with parsley and lemon zest, and serve.