June 26, 2010

Italian-Style Lamb Stew with Green Beans, Tomatoes, and Basil

Stews and braises are often considered as typical fall or winter dishes. Both are soul food which help you to warm up and fill you throughout the cold time of the year. For us stews are not so much a question of the season but of the day of the week. The beauty and at the same time also the limitation of a good stew is that you need a lot of time. During the week there is seldom enough time to simmer a stew for several hours but come weekend we often use a relaxed Sunday afternoon to get a stew started. It is always very satisfying when after some time the appetizing smell of the cooking stew is permeating our home. And since we are used to eat dinner late around 8 or 9 pm, even on a warm summer day at that time the air starts to cool down and it has something relaxing and satisfying to end our weekend with a bowl of stew.

We like to use all kind of meats for stew but recently we have been using lamb more often for our stews enjoying its more distinctive flavor compared to most other meats. This Italian-style lamb stew with green beans, tomatoes, and basil is a nice example of very tender and slightly gamey lamb meat but at the same time the green beans, tomatoes and basil give this stew a summerlike twist. One interesting aspect of this recipe is the choice of the lamb cut. Normally we tend to use boneless lamb shoulder for our stews but this recipe suggested a round bone chop which contains a part of the arm bone. The arm bone includes also a lot of bone marrow and when cooked in the stew for a few hours most of the bone marrow was cooked out and gave the stew a much stronger lamb flavor than we had with any other cuts before. The bone marrow also helped with the potatoes to thicken the stew to give it the right creamy consistency.

Cut meat from bones and reserve bones. It’s not necessary to be very accurate because you can remove the remaining meat from the bones after the cooking. Cut meat in 4cm (1.5 inch) cubes and season with salt and pepper. At the same time preheat oven to 150 C (300 F).

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook lamb meat in two batches (so that the pot is not too crowded) for two minutes on each side until the meat is well browned from all sides. Remove all lamb from pot and transfer to a bowl.

Add remaining oil to Dutch oven at medium heat and add onions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook for about five minutes until onions start to soften and scraping bottom of the pot at the same time to loosen all browned bits.

Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add flour and stir for about two minutes until onions are evenly coated.

Stir in one cup water and wine, scraping bottom of pot to loosen all remaining browned bits. Add remaining cup water and stir constantly to dissolve all flour. Add rosemary, tomatoes and one teaspoon salt and bring to simmer. Add meat, bones and accumulated juices and return to simmer.

Cover Dutch oven, place in preheated oven and cook for one hour. Remove pot from oven and place potatoes and green beans on top of meat.

Cover pot, return to the oven and cook for one hour. Remove bones, stir in basil and season with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from “Cook’s Illustrated”

Serves 6

2 kg (4.5 lbs.) lamb round bone chops, about one inch thick
3 tbsp Canola oil
3 medium onions, chopped coarse
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
480 ml (2 cups) water
120 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
900 g (2 lbs) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
400 g (3/4 lbs.) green beans, halved
½ bunch of basil, minced


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