Friday, February 28, 2014

Lamb Stew

This is a really new recipe my parents decided to try to surprise me, based on something they saw on television (and surprisingly not on a cooking show). We rarely eat lamb, and this stew contained some other unique flavors as well. However, there is a special component to this dish. Of course the stew could just be made as is, but the real interesting technique will be shared tomorrow, which makes this a complete dish. 
Lamb Stew
1 1/2 pounds lamb pieces, cut into one inch cubes
salt and pepper to season
1/2 slab bacon or turkey or chicken bacon, sliced in small pieces 
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with liquid
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
3-5 medium white potatoes, cut in one inch cubes
2 carrots, sliced
1 large onion, roughly diced
2 stalks celery, chopped (optional)
1 cup small olives (optional)
1 1/2 cups red wine

The day before serving:
Season lamb with salt and pepper and combine with the bacon. In a separate bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, carrots, and onion, and celery and olives if using.
Create three layers in a 5.5 quart (approximately) Dutch oven or large pot - a third of the meat, followed by a third of the vegetables, and repeat. Pour the wine over top, as well as any other spices you would like to add, depending on your personal tastes (cayenne pepper, fennel, cinnamon, coriander, bay leaf, basil, rosemary, mint, etc.). Cover and refrigerate overnight.
About 3 1/2 hours before serving:
Preheat oven to 400F. Bake stew, covered for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 275F and bake for an additional 2 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving (unless you are in a hurry). 

Just a few hints and tips on this dish: we found this dish incredibly salty. It is the combination of seasoning the lamb, the salty bacon, and the canned tomatoes. I would recommend using much less bacon and more lamb, using fresh tomatoes or a can for extra liquid with no salt added, only seasoning the meat with pepper, or a combination of these steps. Adding more potatoes would also bulk the dish up and absorb some of the salt. There can be plenty of flavor coming from a variety of your favorite spices. The wine adds an interesting depth of flavor, but I am no wine expert, so I cannot advise you on what type of red wine is best. This is definitely a stew, not a soup, so be sure to keep the vegetables and meat chunky. 

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