On my way home from my Constitutional Law final (wait, wait, is there substance to the 10th Amendment?!) I decided to grab some nice beer, a good looking cut of meat, and a few ingredients so I could spend the afternoon relaxing, cooking, and watching movies on Netflix. I wandered back and forth in the meat section for quite some time before coming to a decision, debating between mouth-watering morsels like chicken thighs, flank steak, and pork loins before finally settling on a couple of different cuts of lamb to make a stew. I shoved my less-than-stellar analysis of the Privileges and Immunities Clause from my brain while watching some movies and flipping through cook books to decide what to make. I settled on a slight adaptation of a Julia Child recipe, based on what I had on hand. I know, I know, who in their right mind adapts Julia Child? But I was missing a couple of ingredients and had a couple others I wanted to use up, so I went for it.
And this turned out so unbelievably good. The lamb was moist, tender, and cooked to perfection. The sauce was rich, meaty, and filled with the delicate flavors of herbs. The vegetables were tender and hearty. It was the perfect cold-Cleveland-night-following-an-exam-which-went-questionably-well meal (or, had-a-long-day-at-work meal, or you-want-to-make-something-for-a-special-occasion meal or you-just-really-love-lamb-and-this-tastes-fucking-delicious meal, whatever suits your fancy). It was hearty, comforting, and soul-warming. The lamb made it feel like an indulgence, though by choosing more inexpensive cuts, this meal was made incredibly affordable. In fact, it’s made mainly with pantry staples.
The recipe, admittedly, is a little bit fussy – a lot of removing ingredients from the cooking vessel and replacing them, and skimming fat. But it was totally worth it, and exactly what I was looking for on a day when I wanted to be distracted from all the studying I had yet to do. Nothing is very difficult and it’s very hard to mess up, but what you are left with on your plate is divine.
Lamb Stew with Red Wine, Potatoes, and Carrots
Adapted from Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1.18 lb. lamb shank
1.27 lbs. bone-in lamb stewing meat
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 tbs. whole wheat flour
2-3 cups beef stock
14 oz. can basil & herb crushed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2-3 large thyme sprigs, tied together with a piece of kitchen twine
3 bay leaves
3-4 small potatoes, peeled
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
Preheat oven to 450º.
Heat chicken fat and olive oil in an oven-proof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add pieces of stewing lamb and shank, working in batches if necessary, to brown. Return all browned lamb pieces to the casserole dish. Sprinkle lamb with sugar and toss over moderately high heat for 3-4 minutes until the sugar as caramelized.
Toss meat with salt and pepper. Then toss with flour. Set casserole in preheated oven for 4-5 minutes. Toss the meat and return it to the oven for another 4-5 minutes.
Remove the casserole and turn the oven down to 350º.
Remove the lamb from the casserole and pour out the fat. Return to medium heat on the stove top. Add wine and stock, scraping the bottom of the dish. Return the lamb to the casserole and bring to a simmer over medium heat for a few minutes, shaking a few times to combine. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, thyme, and bar leaf. Bring to a simmer for one minute. If necessary, add more liquid to almost cover the meat.
Put the lid on the casserole and set in the lower third of the oven. Cook about an hour and a half.
Remove from oven and remove lamb from the casserole. Pour liquid into a bowl and allow to settle. Meanwhile, remove any loose bones from the casserole dish and discard. Return lamb to the casserole dish. Skim the fat off the top of the bowl, taste for seasonings, and pour over lamb into the casserole.
Add the potatoes and carrots.
Return to oven and recover. Cook another hour or so until the meat is cooked to 140º (for medium) and vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.
You can either serve the stewing pieces/shank whole on top of a bed of vegetables with a few ladles of broth (pictured) or strip the meat from the bones and then return it to the pan for a brief simmer to warm through and serve it that way.