Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lamb Stew

First let me just say how much we're enjoying Portland. The weather is absolute perfection (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it's going to be cold & rainy in the winter...but the summers are outstanding!). It's cool - nearly cold every morning, and by the afternoon it's warm, sunny and fantastic. Now that's what throws me for a loop. I've spent the last 7 years buying food every day for dinner (for the most part), and I've yet to get into the habit of planning a few meals in advance for my trip to the market. SO when I get up and it's cool outside, I start craving something warm and comforting. So when I decided to make lamb stew, by the time we ate around 7pm it was warm out, and the stew was not necessarily the ideal meal for a warm August night. Despite that, the stew was delicious.

The best part about a stew like this is you can literally put anything you want in it, in terms of vegetables. I grabbed a bunch of standards and favorites (I really love fennel with the lamb) for mine, but I would encourage you to change it up with whatever local produce you have and love.

Lamb Stew
1 boneless lamb shoulder (leg works too), 4 lbs., cut up into 1 1/2 inch pieces
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 bulb fennel, chopped & frond  reserved
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 dried red peppers (if you like it spicy, like me, make it 3), chopped
2 - 4 cups stock (chicken is best, vegetable or beef would work - water is also fine)

Combine the flour, salt & pepper (to taste - maybe Tbl salt, tsp. pepper) in a bowl and mix. Coat each piece of lamb in the flour. Heat up some olive oil in a dutch oven, or any big pot. Once the oil is quite hot, add some of the lamb. Let the lamb pieces sear for 2-4 minutes until browned, and then turn them over to do the same to the other side. Do not overcrowd the pot, if all the lamb doesn't fit (all should be directly touching the bottom of the pot), do this in stages. Once browned, remove and set aside for later.

Once all of the lamb is browned, reduce the heat slightly (still should be medium-high) and add a little more olive oil. Then add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, bell pepper and garlic. Salt generously to allow the vegetables to begin breaking down. Stir everything through, making sure to break up the bits of lamb that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 8 - 10 minutes. Add the thyme and rosemary and stir through. At this point you could add a couple Tbl. of tomato paste as well, but I didn't have any. Squeeze the tomatoes with your hand, breaking them apart. Add them and the sauce to the pot. Immediately add some salt to season the tomatoes.

Add the hot peppers and the lamb and mix everything through. Add enough stock or water to cover the meat mixture. Bring to a bubble, then lower the heat to medium and cover. Cook for 45 minutes - check it every now and again to make sure it isn't at too quick a rolling boil, and to give a stir. Ladle out into big bowls to serve, and add a small bunch of fennel fronds to the top of each bowl. You could also add a dollop of sour cream, a few hot pepper flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil to finish it off.

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