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Lamb Stew -- Cook-Off 50


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Lamb Stew -- Cook-Off 50

eGullet Recipe Cook-Off Series

Welcome to eG Cook-Off 50. Click here for the Cook-Off index.

Lamb stew can be called by so many different names, in so many different languages. It can be a navarin, ragout or even a daube. It might be called mishmishiya in Egypt, where the name comes from the Arabic word for apricot, or mishmish; apricots make up a large part of the recipe. It's a tagine in Morocco, certainly. And a calderete de cordero in parts of Spain. In Peru you might eat seco de cordero, lamb stew with vegetables, while lamb curries are popular in Africa, India, Indonesia and Malaysia, amongst other locales.

But whatever you call it, in whatever language you'd like, lamb stew is a great dish. Wanna use the neck or shoulder? Go right ahead. How about the breast? Be my guest. Is it a leg you prefer? Well, jump right in. That's what makes lamb stew so good (besides the taste) - you can use practically any part of the animal (though you wouldn't really want to use the loin) and be assured of a tasty, tender dish that will wow your friends and family alike. As a matter of fact, this month's issue of Saveur, # 123, has a great cover and stories about lamb, and inside the mag is a pictorial guide to all the cuts of lamb - almost everything you need to know.

Me - I like the shoulder. The other day I popped over to my butcher shop, where I was able to procure basically a whole front part of a lamb - both shoulders and the neck, actually. I took both shoulders, which were kindly boned out for me; the bones, of course, were used to make 2 quarts of delicious lamb stock...perfect to add another layer of flavor to my stew.

Here's the butcher at work, while some beautiful shoulder and bones await their fate.

lamb stew.jpg

Now, I don't know exactly what type of stew I'm going to cook tomorrow, but the apartment is going to smell great and the neighbors down the hall are going to ask me what's for dinner.

So let's see amd hear all about your favorite way of preparing lamb stew, recipes and all. I'm getting hungry.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Mmm... I have a quart of lovely lamb stock in the freezer so I'm looking forward to this one. One thing that was great about living in Australia was all the different cuts of lamb you could buy. My preference is for either neck or shoulder but in Seattle, the only things I can get reliably are leg of lamb, blade steaks & shanks. Shanks are excellent for braising whole but I don't really consider that a stew as it's not diced up into pieces. Blade steaks are decently succulent but they're cut too thin to get large meaty chunks. Legs tend to be too lean and devoid of connective tissue to make a truly unctuous stew. The best compromise I've found is to buy a whole leg of lamb, carve out most of the large muscles & use them for kebabs or other fast cooking techniques and then use the trim for lamb stew.

edit: The quart of lamb stock in my freezer comes from the fat trimmed off the last leg of lamb which I cooked using the crackling stock method. From that previous leg, I made a dozen kebabs, 1 gallon of lamb red curry & 1 cup of lamb demi-glace.

Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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Practically have to go and rustle my own if I want lamb or mutton these days, so I'm just fantasizing along with you all...

I used to enjoy making the lamb dishes in Helen Saberi's Afghan Food & Cookery. There are some Afghani recipes on the net, too.

Emerald Rice goes well with Afghan lamb qorma...at this time of year, maybe the fragrant, sweet apple Qorma e Saib or, even better, the mushroom Qorma e Samaruq.

The Chinese chives (known to me as nira in Japanese, gandara to Aghans) not only goes brilliantly with spinach in the rice dish, but both go well with mushrooms and lamb.

Qorma e Samaruq ingredients:

Onions, lamb

tomatoes

red or green chili

turmeric, fennel, and ginger

salt

Plenty of mushrooms - the mushrooms and tomatoes will shed enough water with no need for added water or stock. I like to use maitake (hen of the woods) here in Japan, but a nice range of mushrooms will surely taste good anywhere!

Very similar recipe

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So, as I posted above, I made lamb lamb stew this past weekend, and here's the account...

After boning and trimming, I was looking at about 7 lbs. of shoulder, so I cut 5 lbs. into cubes for the stew, figuring that would be plenty for 8 guests, including Significant Eater and me.

2009_10_02+Lamb+to+be+Browned.jpg

The first step in making this stew is to brown the meat (you salted and peppered it first, right?) - and I mean, BROWN the meat. Don't skip this step or do it like a wuss. Brown the damn meat. It should look like this:

2009_10_02+Browning+Lamb.jpg

The whole process and reason for browning, which involves the Maillard reaction, the cool technical term for, ummm, browning, is to add another layer of flavor to your stew. And it also creates a fond, another cool term (this time French) for the browned crap on the bottom of your pan. And as I said, you want brown, bordering on burnt. When you're done with all your browning, the pan should resemble this:

2009_10_02+Fond.jpg

That's some fond, baby. Now, of course you don't let the fond go to waste...you just went through all that trouble to make it. You need to deglaze the pan(s) that you've browned the meat in, with wine, stock or even water. If you don't know what deglazing is, it's heating the liquid in that same pan while scraping the bottom and getting all the fond up - it is like cleaning the pan, except you don't pour the results down the drain - instead, they go into the braise.

A cool thing to do is to use your mirepoix (there go the French again) to deglaze the pan...in this case, my diced onions and carrots, along with a couple of cloves of garlic, went into the pan...they release enough liquid while sweating to deglaze the pan. And then I added a cup and a half of white wine (you can use vermouth, too - Julia always did) and reduced it way down, put the meat back into the pan and added enough lamb stock to come about 2/3 of the way up the meat. I also added a bunch of parsley stems, a handful of thyme sprigs, a few black peppercorns and 2 bay leaves. Brought it to the simmer, covered and into a 325 degree oven for an 1 1/2 hours - after an hour, give it a good stir...

2009_10_02+Lamb+Braise.jpg

Next, remove the meat to a plate, and strain the liquid. That's gonna become the gravy/sauce/whatever for the stew. I like to refrigerate the gravy separately from the meat overnight; that way, all the fat will solidify at the top, and it can just be removed and tossed before finishing the stew. About an hour before serving, both the liquid and meat went back into a 4 quart pan, along with a couple of vegetables. Vegetables are a matter of choice, and for this particular stew, I precooked a bunch of small turnips and carrots. They were added after the stew came back up to a simmer, and heated along with the meat for the last 30 minutes or so.

Now, if your gravy isn't thick enough, there are a couple of tricks. I like to make a beurre manié (trust me, the French know their stuff), and add a tablespoon or two to the sauce. It will thicken up in no time. When all is said and done, this is what you end up with:

2009_10_03+Finished+Lamb+Stew.jpg

Serve over some mashed potatoes, rice, noodles, whatever and be ready for the oohs and ahhs.

Oh...a couple of tips. I started out with 5 lbs. of boned and trimmed cubes and ended up with under 3 lbs. of meat. So, adjust accordingly - that's really only enough for 6 big eaters - if you're cooking for 8 or 10, I'd cook almost a pound of meat per person. Leftovers will not go to waste.

However, if you are starting with 10 bs. of meat and only cooking for 6, do what I did with the extra meat...grind it up and make some free-form merguez...these were as big a hit as the stew!

2009_10_03+Merguez.jpg

Lamb Stew (Serves 8)

6 - 8 lbs. boned, trimmed, lamb shoulder

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrot

1 1/2 cups white wine (or dry vermouth)

2 qts. lamb stock

6 cloves minced garlic

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. black peppercorns

handful parsley stems

8 thyme sprigs

Directions in the post above.

For finishing the dish: this is a matter of personal preference. For this stew, I precooked slightly and added:

6 carrots, 2 inch pieces

8 turnips, quartered

You can also add small potatoes, pearl onions, green beans, peas, etc.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Looks great, Mitch! What did you serve it with?

This weekend, I made the Lamb with Apples recipe in Society member Paula Wolfert's Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean up through the addition of the apples; when I have photos of service I'll add the post here. However, I do want to say that the Aleppo pepper that she recommends (and which I hadn't used before) has a remarkable affinity for lamb stew.

Chris Amirault

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Looks great, Mitch! What did you serve it with?

This weekend, I made the Lamb with Apples recipe in Society member Paula Wolfert's Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean up through the addition of the apples; when I have photos of service I'll add the post here. However, I do want to say that the Aleppo pepper that she recommends (and which I hadn't used before) has a remarkable affinity for lamb stew.

I actually served it with mashed potatoes, pickled beets and a garlicky saute of string beans.

I think that all middle eastern spices probably have that affinity for the lamb.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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Lamb With Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs of lean lamb, cut into 1″ cubes

10-12 dried shitake mushrooms

1 cup of beef broth (made with Better than Bullion)

2 tbs red wine vinegar

¼ cup flour

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tbs of fresh rosemary – de-stemmed

3 fresh sage leaves (medium to large)

2-3 cloves of garlic

Rehydrate the mushrooms in cold water for several hours. (Or for 30 minutes with water you just boiled – don’t boil the mushrooms though.) Save 1 cup of the water you used to soak the mushrooms to make the beef broth with. Squeeze the excess water out of the mushrooms and cut off the stems. Slice the mushrooms and add to the crock pot.

Heat the saved 1 cup of mushroom water in the microwave and make the broth using 1 tsp of the Better Than Bullion concentrate. I add the vinegar into the broth so I can pour into the pan when ready.

Put the flour, salt and pepper into a large zip lock bag and shake to combine. Add the lamb, seal the bag and shake until the lamb is well coated and all the flour is sticking to the lamb.

Brown the lamb pieces on all sides in a large skillet with some oil. Remove the lamb and put in the crock pot. Add the beef broth and vinegar to the skillet and deglaze. Pour the liquid over the lamb.

Chiffonade the sage and chop the rosemary into fine bits and add to the pot. Crush the garlic and add to the pot. Stir to distribute the spices.

Cook on medium for 8-10 hours.

Can be made up and put in the crockpot the night before. Put the pot in the fridge – take out in the morning and start heating.

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

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Mark - when you say lean lamb, that pretty much means the leg, no?

Do you find that such long cooking tends to almost make the lamb disintegrate?

Yes the leg is what I have used - I typically buy it at Costco and trim it, cut and vacuum seal it in 1.5 lb pouches and freeze it.

No, the lamb doesn't disintegrate.

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

My T shirt site: Guy Bling

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Dished up the Turkish lamb stew with apples (granny smith and mutsu) I mentioned here:

etc10.jpg

Served it over an apricot couscous that's the favorite of my daughters. This dish was outstanding in nearly every regard save one: the leg was the wrong cut. Too lean, it dried out over the long cooking. It makes me hellbent to find someone who can provide lamb shoulder for stews....

Chris Amirault

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Dished up the Turkish lamb stew with apples (granny smith and mutsu) I mentioned here:

Served it over an apricot couscous that's the favorite of my daughters. This dish was outstanding in nearly every regard save one: the leg was the wrong cut. Too lean, it dried out over the long cooking. It makes me hellbent to find someone who can provide lamb shoulder for stews....

I've always had that feeling about using the leg for stew...just not enough fat. Interestingly enough, most cookbook recipes that suggest the leg have a fairly short (for stew) cooking time.

Do you have a real butcher who provides the leg? Because I would hope they'd also be able to get you shoulder.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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What is this "real butcher" of which you speak?

You know, a place that cuts and sells meat; not meat along with chocolate, coffee, ice cream, ivory soap, etc.

I think Chris might have been meaning where does one find a real butcher in his area, as you describe. Well, for me, anyway, there is not a real or fake butcher shop on the entire Island of Oahu. Therefore I have to believe in the entire State of Hawaii. I've been mail ordering meat with various degrees of success to try to get around this.

On topic: Being inspired by this topic, I want to make a Lamb stew for my son's 18th B-day party next Saturday. I've got to get it just right because I'm not telling any of the 20 family members, including the lovely Ginger B.H., that it IS LAMB, until after they eat it ! Or no one will try it LOL

I want to be River Cottage minded, buying meat with a conscience, which means my only two alternatives is to buy at Whole Foods or mail order.

Whole Foods is out because they do not stock Lamb Shoulder, could order it but takes 3-4 weeks. They do have leg but after Chris' experience that is out.

SO, I will be on the net looking for lamb shoulder or compromise my resolve to buy animals that have been treated humanely or forget the whole idea.

BTW, anyone got a recipe for Lamb stew that tastes so good a picky eater would like it ?>

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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What kind of picky eater are we talking about? Because rogan josh converted me to lamb, and I think that might technically fall under the "lamb stew" heading. But if said picky eater doesn't like "spicy" things, it might not help.

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I hadn't realized that Lamb curry, or curry d'agneau, is one of France's classic bistro dishes, until I stumbled on the recipe below adapted from Patricia Wells At Home in Provence. This will be on my menu sometime this week.

Spicy Lamb Curry with Yogurt & Apples

lamb shoulder (or shoulder chops), cubed

sea salt & ground pepper to taste

4 med onions, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced

2oz piece fresh ginger, finely chopped

freshly minced garlic

cumin seeds, freshly ground

coriander seeds, freshly ground

turmeric

cayenne pepper

yogurt

1 firm, tart apple e.g. Granny Smith, grated

Brown lamb & season with salt & pepper.

Leave the fat remaining in the pan and saute the onions with a pinch of salt; cook over medium heat about 15 minutes. Add the ginger & garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the ground spices and cook until they are fragrant, about 15 seconds more. Add the yogurt and mix in well. Add the lamb and any juices, grated apple and 1 cup of hot water. Blend carefully. The liquid should just barely cover the meat.

Cover and simmer gently, turning the lamb regularly to coat it evenly with the sauce, until the meat is very tender - about 1 1/2 hours. The sauce should be fragrant a slightly thickened. Taste for seasoning. The dish may be prepared ahead to this point, refrigerated and then brought to a simmer over low heat.

Rover

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What kind of picky eater are we talking about? Because rogan josh converted me to lamb, and I think that might technically fall under the "lamb stew" heading. But if said picky eater doesn't like "spicy" things, it might not help.

We are talking very picky, with no tolerance for heat in their food past a 2, at the most.

My youngest son age 5, loves Orange Chicken and white sticky rice. The rice CANNOT touch the chicken or he will not eat the rice. He eats a lot of both, but only in different mouthfuls. He inherited this from the Matriarch of the family, my Mother-in-Law. Of the 25 people coming to the party 20 have this particular gene in their make-up. We are talking PICKY LOL

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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What kind of picky eater are we talking about? Because rogan josh converted me to lamb, and I think that might technically fall under the "lamb stew" heading. But if said picky eater doesn't like "spicy" things, it might not help.

We are talking very picky, with no tolerance for heat in their food past a 2, at the most.

My youngest son age 5, loves Orange Chicken and white sticky rice. The rice CANNOT touch the chicken or he will not eat the rice. He eats a lot of both, but only in different mouthfuls. He inherited this from the Matriarch of the family, my Mother-in-Law. Of the 25 people coming to the party 20 have this particular gene in their make-up. We are talking PICKY LOL

I can't help thinking it may be a mistake to prepare lamb for so many who might possibly not enjoy it. I love lamb; but I want to pick out my purchase for myself and I never serve it to self-confessed picky eaters. Lamb can be expensive and it would be sad to spend the money and the time on something your audience won't care for. I think it's a bit of a gamble to do this for a special occasion and wonder if short-ribs or another choice from the braising topic might work better. Good luck with the birthday celebration!

Rover

edited for typo

Edited by Rover (log)
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  • 1 month later...

I usually end up buying a leg, making several different meals with pieces cut off that have been frozen, then boiling the remainder for soup. I have given up finding little packages of lamb already cut up like you do beef.

In the eighties I got a cookbook called Lamb Around the World that was being given away in supermarkets in Montana by the Lamb Board to promote more mutton-eating among Montanans who may raise it but don't eat it as much as the sheep industry would like. There is a good curry recipe in that.

James Beard also has a good kebab recipe in Barbecuing with Beard. It's marinated, of course.

Couscous stew is always good with lamb, sometimes in combination with another meat.

I'm at the library now so don't have any of these recipes with me.

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For something different, I had a go at Levantine Lamb Stew from Christine Osborne's Middle Eastern Cooking. It uses a subtle amount of garlic & ginger, together with saffron and pieces of lemon cooked in the stew. I used 2 or 3 lbs of lamb shoulder from NZ. Seen here just at the start of the simmer:

DSCF0160.JPG

I blew the picture after the final addition of olives & yoghurt:

DSCF0161.JPG

but earlier noticed the same picture from the book is at Food Features. (There's no way those onions and that lemon have been stewed for two hours. So much for the recipe going with the picture).

Reheated today, a bowl of it looked like this:

DSCF0163.JPG

- I have some pieces of onion showing, that I added ten minutes before the end. Even these are more wilted than those in the book's picture.

I like it. The saffron, lemon, olives and background garlic & ginger make an unusual (to me) combination. I salted & peppered as instructed, but I'm not familiar enough with Middle Eastern food to know if it's generally peppery-hot, or less so. Can anyone comment ?

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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  • 1 month later...

Looks great, Mitch! What did you serve it with?

This weekend, I made the Lamb with Apples recipe in Society member Paula Wolfert's Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean up through the addition of the apples; when I have photos of service I'll add the post here. However, I do want to say that the Aleppo pepper that she recommends (and which I hadn't used before) has a remarkable affinity for lamb stew.

Today Kerry Beal and I went on an expedition to find Aleppo pepper. We visited 2 Middle Eastern Grocery stores without finding it. The store clerks seems puzzled and were unable to help. However in the second store we found something in a bulk bin labelled "Armenian Pepper". I have googled Armenian pepper and get a few hits on how to grow the fresh variety but nothing much on the dried variety. Does anyone know if there is any relationship between Aleppo (Syrian) pepper and Armenian pepper?

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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      What is bibimbap, you ask? In a previous thread devoted to the subject, Jinmyo offered this typically inimitable explanation:
      True, some ingredients (the pickles known as kimchee and the red pepper paste known as gojuchang) may be a bit tricky for you to find, but we can summon up some possible substitutes. No special equipment is absolutely necessary, though if you have one of the stone or metal cook bowls known as dolsots, you'll want to use that. Like cassoulet, bibimbap inspires many debates about authenticity and regionalism, which means that the neophyte can experiment with great flexibility and still claim some amount of technical merit!
      Finally and as always, the eGullet Society is chock-a-block full of experts ready to share ideas and recipes for the various components of this dish, not only on the thread referenced above (click the little pink box in the quotation) but also here, here, and here, with a kimchee thread here and a kochuchang thread here. So turn on your rice cookers and get your beef a-marinating -- and if you have any soju handy, get it damned cold!
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