Nothing beats a warm, stick-to-your-ribs stew on a cold winter's day. This kind of comfort food happens to be my favorite style of cooking. What separates a great stew from a merely good one is not fancy ingredients or fussy plate presentations, but good old-fashioned tender loving care. A hearty stew is a dish where you can really taste the love that went into making it. It's all about taking your time and and enjoying the process as much as the finished product.
Lamb is a bit of a luxury ingredient, but what's nice about this dish is that you don't need to buy a luxury cut like rack or filet. The best cut for this recipe happens to be one of the cheapest: shoulder. You can either buy a large boneless piece and cube it yourself, or you can buy a package of pre-cut "stewing cubes" that will most likely be shoulder anyway. Either way, you want meat that still has a decent amount of fat left on, because that fat will melt away into the stew, making it rich and flavourful.
Prep time: 30 minutes. Cooking time: 90 minutes. Serves 5
2 lbs (907g) boneless lamb shoulder, cubed
1/2 lbs (225g) nantais carrots
4 branches celery
1 pound (454g) small potatoes
1 large onion, peeled & diced
1 head garlic, halved
1 medium size celeryroot (celeriac), peeled & cubed
2 cups (500ml) red wine
4 cups (1L) beef or veal stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 branches fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh chives
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1. Season the lamb generously with salt & pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot and sautee the lamb and onions until they are nicely browned. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. If you need more space, use a frying pan to saute half the onions & lamb and then transfer it over to the pot when nicely browned. When the meat has fully browned, add a small amount of red wine to the pot to deglaze. Use a wooden spoon to scrap any brown bits off the bottom of the pot because these will add flavour to the stock.
2. Add the remaining red wine, along with 2 carrots, 2 celery stocks, garlic and rosemary branches, all left whole so that they can be easily removed later. Add the beef or veal stock along with enough water to make sure that the lamb is thoroughly covered. Simmer until the lamb is very tender, but not yet falling apart, about 60 to 90 minutes.
3. Remove the vegetables from the stock. They have already given their flavour to the stock and are ready to be replaced with fresh veggies that will serve as the accompaniment. Add the potatoes and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Top with water occasionally to make sure everything stays covered.
4. Chop the remaining carrots & celery and add to the pot along with the chopped celeryroot. Simmer until the vegetables have just softened, about 10 minutes. Continue to add water as necessary to make sure everything stays covered.
5. In a small cup, mix 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water, then pour into the stew. Simmer the stew until the broth is just thick enough to coat a spoon. Season with salt, pepper & fresh chives.
by Derek Bocking