I have a love-hate relationship with lamb. If it were up to me, and genetics did not make my metabolic rate so terribly flawed, I would have lamb everyday of the week. Lamb chops, lamb patties, lamb shanks, lamb pies, lamb curry and of course lamb stew of all sorts. Before you associate eating lamb with the killing of babies and all things cute, if you have ever tasted a pan-seared lamb loin chop while on vacation in Southern France, you will know that eating a tiny spring lamb is akin to sipping the finest wine in a field of golden tulips at sunset. Well, ok, I was trying to be poetic, but you catch the drift.
This is a Provencal recipe I nicked off a book I found in Borders for less than $5. It's called 'Savoring Provence' and has a fantastic selection of French recipes, every which one I will try at some point. The recipe calls for shelled English peas, but since young tender sugar snap peas are in season, I substituted that instead. The recipe also calls for bouquet garni (pic above) which is just a fancy French name for a herb bouquet made up of fresh parsley, fresh thyme and one bay leaf (fresh or dried is fine) tied together with a piece of butcher string.
Unlike traditional winter stew, this recipe doesn't incorporate potatoes, but is served on the side with boiled potatoes (pic below) tossed with butter, salt, pepper and freshly chopped parsley. For dessert, I made an orange and almond tart that rounds off the whole spring theme really well. But I'm not going to just hand you the recipe, you'll have to work for it by coming back and clicking on this blog and humor my shameless self-promotion.
Oh, and find a good bottle of Cotes du Rhone or Bordeaux blanc. This is one of the few times you will want to pair a meaty dish with white wine.
Springtime Lamb Stew (Navarin d'Agneau)
Makes 6 servings
Adapted from 'Savoring Provence'
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 boneless leg of lamb (about 2lbs), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups low-sodium chicke broth
Bouquet Garni (3 parsley stalks, 2 thyme stalks, 1 bay leave)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lbs young Nantes carrots, cut into 2 inch lengths and halved
4 baby turnips, quartered
1 bunch small radishes, trimmed
1/2 lb (about 6) shallots, peeled and quartered
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
24 asparagus tips, about 3 inches long
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)
In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Working in batches, add the meat and brown well on all sides, about 15 minutes for each batch. When all the meat is browned, return it to the pan, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 1 minute. Scatter the flour all over and cook, stirring, until some of the flour browns, about 30 seconds.
Add the wine, the chicken broth and the bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes. stir the meat, add the garlic, sugar and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and continue to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. [Amanda's note: You can cool this part and refrigerate if you intend to use it the next day. Just reheat and do the following:]
Add the carrots, turnips, radishes, shallots and cover and cook at a gentle simmer until the meat is tender, about 40 minutes. Add the peas and asparagus about 6 - 8 minutes before the end of cooking time.
Remove the bouquet garni. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables to a warmed serving dish and keep warm. Raise the heat to high, bring the liquid in the pot to a boil and boil rapidly, stirring constantly until reduced to a light sauce consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Spoon the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Garnish with the parsley and serve.