Fireside Lamb Stew

Yesterday I had to put on my rain boots to make my trek to the farmers’ market.  It was so cool and dismal that I decided that it was a soup day.  I stopped by the Pair-A-Dice Farm stand to pick up some lamb stew meat as a place to start.  Then I picked up a little butternut squash to help out.  A quick search on epicurious.com and I was ready to go.

One thing I’ve learned about using online recipes is that you should always read the comments.  It will save you from making a mediocre dish and might give you some good substitution ideas.  In this case I was particularly glad to read the comments as they saved me a lot on fat and calories.  Most folks recommended leaving out the oil so that’s what I did.  I can’t begin to imagine why you’d need it.  I also left out the ancho chile.  That was just because I didn’t feel like going to the store to get one.  I did throw in half a carmine pepper. It was either throw it in or throw it away and I hate throwing food away.  The other terrific piece of advice was to wait to add the butternut.  It would have been complete mush if I’d added it as the recipe directed.  Finally, I agreed with most folks that the sauce was too thin for a real stew.  I added a little flour slurry to take care of that.

Overall my approach was to make a half recipe.  I get tired of most dishes after 2-3 meals and my freezers are already full of leftovers I’ve frozen and never bothered to dig out again.  I decided to cut the meat by 2/3 and the vegetables by only 1/4.  This is a great way to stretch the meat and get some extra vegetables in your diet without sacrificing falvor.  It also stretches your food dollar and reduces fat and calories.  Hard to beat that.  It worked out great and allowed me to use up some carrots that were languishing in the drawer.  The carrots and butternut squash are wonderfully sweet against the spice of the cinnamon and chile powder.  The cumin and the lamb make a terrific earthy base for the vegetables.  I chopped the dried apricots finely so I’d have the nice fruity finish without having the chewy texture of the apricots in my stew.  Excellent.

This was a perfect dish for a cool and rainy August evening.  Warm and yummy, but not too heavy.  If this was November I’d probably want this stew to have potatoes to give it some heft, but since cool in August is still 70 degrees this was exactly right.

Good? Very good.
Easy? Mostly. Just a bunch of chopping.
Good for company? Sure, a lovely casual dinner.
Special shopping? Nope, but I find that farmers’ market lamb is less gamey than what you get in the store.

Fireside Lamb Stew

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound lamb stew meat, trimmed of fat
2 1/2 cups defatted chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
Zest of 1/2 orange, in wide strips
1 1/2 cups cubed (1 inch) butternut squash, peeled
3 T finely chopped dried apricots

Directions

1. Combine the onion, red pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a large, heavy pot. Stir well, then add the meat. Toss the meat with the spice mixture to coat it well.

2. Add the broth, carrots and orange zest. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat and simmer gently, partially covered, over medium heat for 25 minutes. Add the butternut squash and dried apricots; cook, partially covered, until the lamb and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes more. Remove and discard the orange zest.

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