Posted by: A Part of the Solution | March 27, 2013

Lamb Stews

I love roast lamb. And I often cook a leg after appropriate marinating  and garlic-and-rosemary insertions all over the outside. Sometimes, I want lamb another way. Last night, I took one large boneless leg and broke it down into stewing chunks of about 1.5″, 4cm–carefully reducing the fat as I went. Then I made two different lamb stews. I made Herbed Basque Lamb Stew and Persian Lamb Fesenjan.

I started the Basque Lamb Stew first, since it had a marination time of a couple hours. Once I had the marinade in action, I switched over to the Persian Lamb Fesenjan. Both stews had three or more hours in a very slow oven. lamb cooked in this way is spoon tender. Both of these recipes require some prep, so make them when you have the time to enjoy both the process and the result.

I recommend serving the Herbed Basque Lamb Stew with a crusty loaf or plain rice. The Fesenjan goes right up to the next level with a simple pilaf or a side of saffron rice.

Herbed Basque Lamb Stew

For the marinade:

3-3.5 lbs. , 1350-1500 gm, stewing lamb well cleaned of fat and silver-skin, in 1.5″, 4 cm, chunks

1 bulb garlic, peeled and trimmed

3 TBSP prepared French, German or English mustard

3 inner stalks of celery, mostly leaves

1/3 bunch Italian, flat-leaf, parsley

1/3 bunch fresh mint (optional)

1 TBSP soy sauce or tamari

2 tsp dried, or 2 TBSP fresh, marjoram

2 tsp dried, or 2 TBSP fresh, rosemary

2 tsp dried, or 2 TBSP fresh, tarragon

2 tsp dried, or 2 TBSP fresh, thyme

2 tsp fresh lavender (optional)

2 tsp Herbs de Provence

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup white or red wine

2 TBSP olive oil

In a food processor or blender, place the marinade ingredients through red pepper flakes. Whirl up the seasonings until thoroughly combined. Add the red wine and incorporate completely. Drizzle in the olive oil to create an emulsified  marinade–like a thick, creamy green dressing. Toss your lamb chunks in this marinate, cover and allow to marry for 2 hours on the counter, or up to overnight in the fridge.

For the Lamb Stew

2 large red bell peppers OR 1 large red bell pepper and about 8 cherry bombs, jalapenos or anaheims, roasted, skinned and seeded and cut into 1/4 inch strips

OR

1 10 oz jar of roasted red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch strips

3 oz bacon, diced and divided

1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch strips

1/2 cup red wine

3 TBSP tomato paste (optional)

3 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Heat two thick bottomed frying or saute pans over medium heat. Add the diced bacon–one ounce to one pan, and two ounces to the larger pan. Cover the pans, reduce the heat somewhat and allow the bacon to cook for 6 minutes. Stir and allow to cook for another 6 minutes. Take the lids off the pans, bring the heat back to full medium. Cook the bacon until it is crispy brown, then fish it out with a slotted spoon and set it by. Leave the bacon fat for your sauteing. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In the smaller pan, cook the onion strips like the bacon: cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and ignore as much as possible, stirring only once in 15 minutes. Bring the heat back to medium, uncover the pan and continue to cook the onions without stirring more than once every five minutes. When the onions are nicely browned, turn the heat off under them.

In the larger pan, set the pieces of lamb, after wiping them free of as much of the marinade as you can. Cook the lamb in batches if necessary, each chunk of lamb needs full contact with the pan. Over medium flame, allow the pieces to cook for 5-6 minutes before turning. Brown two or three sides of each chunk of lamb.

Set the lamb chunks with the finished onions. Add the red wine, and tomato paste if using, to the lamb searing pan. Allow these to bubble for 3-4 minutes over a medium high flame. Scrape the pan thoroughly to get up all the lovely browned bits of lamb. And the chicken stock and heat until bubbling. In a large, oven proof casserole, a 9″ X 13″ pan, or a 12″-14″ cast iron frying pan, combine the lamb, onions, pepper strips, cooked bacon and hot liquid. Cover the dish tightly, with aluminum foil if you don’t have a lid. Bake for 3 hours.

You could put this in a slow-cooker in the morning, having performed all the stove-top operations the night before. If so, start the stew on high first thing, and turn the cooker to low when you head out the door. It will be ready when you get home.

Persian Lamb Fesenjan

3-3.5 lbs. , 1350-1500 gm, stewing lamb well cleaned of fat and silver-skin, in 1.5″, 4 cm, chunks

3 TBSP olive oil or sesame oil (not toasted), divided

1 large onion, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ strips

1 1/2 TBSP ground cardamom

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground fennel seed

1 fat pinch of good saffron thread in 2 TBSP warm water

3 cups chicken stock

6 TBSP pomegranate molasses

3 cups, 15 oz or 420 gm, toasted pecans OR walnuts, pulsed in the food processor until finely ground, but not an oily precursor to nut butter

Heat two thick bottomed frying or saute pans over medium heat. Put 1 TBSP olive oil in the smaller pan, and 2 TBSP olive oil in the larger pan. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Put the onion strips in the smaller pan. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium low.  Stir only once in 15 minutes. Bring the heat back to medium, uncover the pan and continue to cook the onions without stirring more than once every five minutes. When the onions are nicely browned, and the cardamom, cinnamon, fennel and pepper to the pan to toast for about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.

In the larger pan, set the pieces of lamb, after wiping them as dry as you can. Cook the lamb in batches if necessary, each chunk of lamb needs full contact with the pan. Over medium flame, allow the pieces to cook for 5-6 minutes before turning. Brown two or three sides of each chunk of lamb.

Set the lamb chunks with the finished onions. Deglaze the lamb searing pan with a quarter cup of the chicken stock, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the chicken stock  and heat until bubbling. In a large, oven proof casserole, a 9″ X 13″ pan, or a 12″-14″ cast iron frying pan, combine the lamb, onions, and hot liquid. Cover the dish tightly, with aluminum foil if you don’t have a lid. Bake for 2 hours.

Stir together the ground nuts and the pomegranate molasses. Combine these with braising lamb chunks. Cover the stew tightly and cook one more hour at 300°F.

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