Monday, January 30, 2012
Fragrantly Sweet Lamb Stew
I know I speak blasphemy when I say we grew a little tired of all the fresh fish we've been having. I happen to love lamb, perhaps it's my Greek heritage. I rarely have lamb though, since it's so expensive. But the other day I noticed lamb stew meat was a reasonable price so I purchased two packs. One pack had bones and the other didn't. Be sure to use lamb with bones because the bones help thicken the sauce and they also add flavor. I wish I had topped the stew with a sprig of parsley to enhance the photo. This stew was so succulent and fragrantly sweet.
First I browned some garlic in butter in a large stock pot on top of the stove, then I added the meat to brown a bit. Next I added two cans of diced tomatoes and one can of tomato paste. Then I filled the diced tomato can with water and added two of those full, maybe three. Just make sure the meat is covered completely with liquid. I turned up the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Meanwhile I looked in my spice cabinet and pulled out a bunch of spices I thought might go with lamb. Now I am sitting here trying to remember which ones I used because this stew was unbelievably delicious. I know I used mustard seed, rosemary, crushed mint, anise seed, fennel seed, and crushed bay leaves. I used a liberal amount of the all of these especially the rosemary. Some folks don't like lamb because of the what they call the strong flavor of the meat, but the combinations I've used in this stew minimizes that strong flavor and you're sure to like it.
Many times when I make a dish with a tomato base, like spaghetti sauce, I'll add some baking soda right at the end of the cooking to neutralize the acid of the tomatoes. This is a tip I learned from my teenage years of learning to cook from Antoinette Pope's cookbook. I looked in my cabinet and didn't have any baking soda. I thought about adding a little sugar but that didn't seem quite right for this recipe. Here's what I did. I added half a cup of grapefruit juice. Now that may sound strange, but sometimes two acid ingredients have a way of combining and making something sweet and enhancing the other flavors and spices. Why? It's some kind of cooking chemistry. And it worked like a charm with this dish.
When the pot came to a boil I turned the heat down to a simmer and kept it cooking for about two hours only stirring occasionally. I would have added russet potatoes, but I only had sweet potatoes. I chopped up three good sized ones and added them the last 45 minutes of cooking time. Now I'm wondering if the sweet potatoes enhanced the flavor of the sauce as well. Something to test by using white potatoes next time. When the stew was done the meat was very tender and some of the meat was falling off the bone. Gary and I both enjoyed the stew immensely. We had more than enough sauce left over a couple of days later, so I chopped up a couple of zucchini and crookneck squash and cooked them for half an hour in the sauce and we ate that too. If you are a vegetarian you can use this sauce with just vegetables; thicken with some cornstarch or regular potatoes. If you don't have grapefruit juice, substitute some orange juice. Thanks for reading and for all your comments.